National Combine offers talented athletes opportunities

The AFL New Zealand National Combine will be held on January 23 2014, and will offer talented athletes from around New Zealand the opportunity to impress recruiters from AFL clubs.

The event will once again be held at the ASB Indoor Stadium, one of Wellington’s premier sporting facilities. The inaugural AFL New Zealand National Combine was held there in 2012, as was the 2013 edition.

Participants in the National Combine are the cream of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme. Attendance at the National Combine is invitation only for participants, though spectators are welcome.

40 of the top young athletes from around the country have been invited to attend, and will measured in a variety of tests. Athletic skills are tested in the 20 metre sprint, agility, vertical leap and beep test, while football specific skills are tested in kicking and handballing drills.

For recruiters, the National Combine offers an opportunity to view potential players to sign to AFL International Scholarships. Currently, three AFL clubs have New Zealanders contracted on International Scholarships.

Maia Westrupp was signed to the Melbourne Demons on an International Scholarship after impressing scouts in the 2013 National Combine. The St Kilda Saints currently have Porirua teenager Joe Baker-Thomas, and Siope Ngata is signed to the Hawthorn Hawks.

Previous holders of AFL International Scholarships have recently been elevated to the rookie list of the Hawthorn Hawks, meaning they are full time contracted players of the club. Shem Tatupu and Kurt Heatherley have the chance to play elite level AFL this season for the Hawks, after making the most of their International Scholarship opportunities.

Strong performances in the National Combine can also lead to New Zealand representation in AFL. The AFL New Zealand High Performance programme, of which the Combine programme is one element, offers a pathway towards wearing the black jersey of the New Zealand Hawks.

Participants in the National Combine are strongly encouraged to continue playing AFL at every opportunity. For secondary school students, the upcoming Senior Hawks Cup, an interschool AFL competition, can provide that opportunity.

Senior Hawks Cup regional cluster tournaments will begin in week 3 of term 1, 2014. High Performance programme participants are encouraged to take a leadership role in forming and coaching their school’s teams, as they will have picked up knowledge and experience through learning from the best AFL coaches in New Zealand.