Kiwi Kurt Heatherley is in the frame to make his AFL debut this weekend for the Hawthorn Hawks.
Heatherley impressed during the pre-season NAB Challenge, and could now play in the first round match against the Brisbane Lions, on Saturday March 22.
Hawthorn Football Manager Chris Fagan has talked up the chances of Heatherley getting on the field.
“Kurt’s right in the mix. There’s a few training sessions to go, but his form has been really pleasing. He’s probably exceeded our expectations to some degree,” said Fagan.
“In the three NAB Challenge games he played he looked really comfortable. He has speed and he’s athletic and he’s a real competitor, so his belief in himself has really helped him improve.”
Kurt Heatherley was signed by Hawthorn to an AFL International Scholarship in 2009.A talented basketball player from Tauranga, Heatherley was given the opportunity to secure a career as a professional athlete through his International Scholarship.
Along with fellow New Zealander Shem Tatupu, Heatherley was elevated to the Hawthorn rookie last at the end of last year.
AFL New Zealand CEO Robert Vanstam is pleased, but not surprised at the rise of Kurt Heatherley.
“Kurt’s story shows the tremendous opportunities available to New Zealanders through AFL. It’s only a matter of time before we see him playing regular top level AFL.”
The Hawthorn Hawks currently have Siope Ngata from Aorere College in Auckland signed to an International Scholarship.
Heatherley had to work hard for his opportunities with Hawthorn, after enduring injuries and operations for much of 2013.
The effort paid off for both Heatherley and Hawthorn, particularly during Hawthorn’s opening NAB Challenge match. Heatherley made a bold sidestep and disposal to set up an attacking move that led to a goal, and marked and spoiled solidly in the defensive line.
Hawthorn, current champions of the AFL, won the NAB Challenge. Their squad depth and current form mark them out as contenders to win back to back Premierships.
New Zealanders can watch the six live AFL games every week on Sommet Sports, which broadcasts on Channel 14 of the Freeview Network.
Sommet Sports is set to announce the date on which the channel will begin broadcasting on Freeview Satellite and Channel 69 of the Sky Network.