Junior Hawks Cup gets underway in Northland

The first Junior Hawks Cup Cluster Tournament of 2013 has been held, with girls and boys from Dargaville High School and the Bay of Islands College competing for the title of champions of Northland. The tournament was held at Tikipunga Sports Ground, in Whangarei.

The Junior Hawks Cup constitutes the first step on the AFL New Zealand High Performance Pathway. Athletes that make an impression in these competitions can be rewarded with invitiations to the AFL New Zealand Combine programme, from which the very best are selected to represent New Zealand at age group level.

In the male competition, Bay of Islands College managed to edge out Dargaville High School to win a close game. The scores were tight leading into the final quarter, with Bay of Islands College taking control of the match near the end. The final score was 15.5:95 to 9.9:63.

One player from each team was awarded the honour of being named Best on Ground. For Dargaville High School, Caleb Eades was the standout player. Southen Smith was particularly influential for Bay of Islands College.

AFL New Zealand High Performance coach Michael Gregson was on hand to observe the matches, and was impressed with what he saw.

“The athleticism and skill level of the students was excellent, with plenty of boys putting their hands up for selection in the AFL New Zealand High Performance Programme. What was really pleasing to see was the improvement in game play understanding and direction that both teams played with.”

In the female competition, both teams played at a furious pace, with all players hungry to get involved in the game. The skills of Wairua Simon-Hau of Bay of Islands College and Naomi Peti of Dargaville High School were recognised with Best on Ground awards.

For these girls the competition will be the first step in the pathway towards representing New Zealand. Many of the participants in the competition have shown they have the potential to represent their country as part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme.

For Northland girls, role models of this pathway already exist. During October the U-18 New Zealand Kahus became New Zealand’s first ever female representatives in AFL, and one of their tour matches took place in Whangarei. The Northland region was represented by Claudia McMeekin-Currin from Kaitaia and Setareh Brown from Whangarei.

The support of teachers and student coaches is important for the continued success of the Hawks Cup. From Bay of Islands College teachers Lynda Scott and Dave Scott were instrumental in putting together their teams. Dargaville High School was well served by Simon Barnsley, who managed their team.

Part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme includes a pathway towards becoming a High Performance Coach, and two members of the 2013 AFL New Zealand High Performance Programme have taken up that opportunity. Tekopa Tipene-Thomas and Matiu Cowles both took on the responsibility of coaching the Bay of Islands College team. The team was lucky to have two young men with such mana and knowledge on board.

Further Hawks Cup cluster tournaments will be taking place around the country over the coming weeks. The Junior Hawks Cup programme will culminate in the North Island and South Island Hawks Cups, where school teams will have the opportunity to secure the title of being the best AFL team on their island.

The current North Island title holders are Kelston Boys High School and Western Springs College in the female competition. Bay of Islands College made a strong run in the 2012 competition, winning two of their five matches.

Fixtures and Results:

Bay of Islands College 15.5:95 – 9.9:63 Dargaville High School