Peter Halstead knows how to score goals. He slotted plenty of them during more than a decade of top-level football with Miramar Rangers and Team Wellington.
Now, the 32-year-old is exchanging a football for a sherrin as he prepares for his first crack at the AFL New Zealand Premiership.
“I’ve played competitive football for the past 12 years, but I’m kind of wrapping that up. That’s why I’ve given this premiership a go, it’s an opportunity to try something different.”
The premiership is in its second season, with the four teams retaining roughly 12 players from the first season. The remaining players wanting to play in the premiership went into a pool and were drafted by one of the teams over eight rounds on Tuesday night.
Halstead was the first pick of draft, going to the Northern Suns.
He’s no newcomer to the game, having played in the Wellington AFL competition for five or so years during football’s off-season. He also played in Sydney while completing his Master of Physiotherapy, eventually working his way up to play in one of the top local leagues.
His 1.90-metre frame is well suited to the ruckman position he plays in AFL, which he likens to his footballing role of a target man.
“Basically I’m the tall guy in the middle that jumps up and contests the ball and taps it off to the little fast guys who run off me. You go round the field contesting and trying to feed the smaller guys.
“It’s similar to soccer, my role is to lay it off to the smaller, quicker guys.”
The position requires a high level of fitness and athletic ability, while Halstead said Aussie Rules as a game was well suited to footballers.
“The majority of the players in the Wellington competition are rugby players, but I think the soccer players that play have better awareness, because rugby is just running at each other, whereas soccer you need that 360-degree awareness, which you need in AFL.”
The premiership season is played at QBE Stadium in Auckland each Sunday from February 12 to April 9 – well into the start of the winter football season – with no financial assistance for players to cover the costs of getting there.
It made the decision to commit to playing a big one for the Wellington-based Halstead, but one that was made with a big goal in mind.
“I’m an old dog now, but there’s the International Cup next year, which is kind of like the World Cup without Australia in it. It’s held in Melbourne every three years and it’s in August next year.
“I haven’t really talked to anyone about it, but that’s probably my main motivation to play in this premiership, to try and get recognised to make that New Zealand team. I’ve always wanted to play for them, it’s just my soccer commitments have got in the way up until now.”
If the comments of Northern Suns coach Dave Abetz are anything to do by, then you’d think he would be in with a chance of making that team.
“We have chosen Peter Halstead from the Eastern Bulldogs for our first pick. His highly-regarded ruck skills will complement our strong midfield group, allowing us to win more of the ball around the ground.”
Story – stuff.co.nz