A group of the best young AFL players from New Zealand have been selected to represent the South Pacific at the NAB U16 Australian Championships in Queensland.
The honour comes after strong performances in the South Pacific Cup, held in April.
Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, who captained the New Zealand Hawks at the South Pacific Cup, leads the group of six players. The Bay of Islands College student was named the AFL New Zealand U16 Player of the Year in April, and is known as a hard runner and fearless tackler.
Giovanni Mountain Silbery of Aorere College has been named in the team. The St Kilda International Scholarship holder could be a surprise package at the tournament, with his raw talent, speed and size.
Siope Ngata, also of Aorere College and on an International Scholarship with the Hawthorn Hawks, is expected to be a devastating presence for the South Pacific. Ngata has excellent handling skills and is a strong runner. Defending against him will be a tough assignment for opposition teams.
Te Rei Clark of Whagarei Boys High School is a player who has extensive experience of touring, having played impressively at the 2013 NAB U16 Australian Championships. His experience and mana will be crucial for the South Pacific team.
Christian Blackie of Otago Boys High School will represent the South Island. Blackie and Tipene-Thomas are rated highly enough to have been named in the wider training squad for the Senior New Zealand Hawks.
Rounding out the group of six is Jack Matheson, of St Patrick’s College Silverstream. Matheson was a deserving winner of a Best and Fairest award at the South Pacific Cup, along with further Best and Fairest nominations.
The NAB U16 Australian Championships are a key proving ground for the best young AFL players in the world. Teams hail from various Australian states, along with the South Pacific team, a World team and the AFL Flying Boomerangs.
Scouts from AFL clubs will be in attendance, looking to unearth future professional AFL players. With many New Zealanders now on AFL International Scholarships, hopes are high that more young Kiwis will be signed after the tournament.
South Pacific will play matches against the World Team, the AFL Flying Boomerangs, and Western Australia Northwest.
Nations sending players to the South Pacific team include Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Nauru, and Tonga.
The NAB U16 Australian Championships will begin on the 5th of July, and run until the 13th.