Australian rules is a new game for most New Zealanders but it is the sport that will give four Dunedin secondary school pupils their first taste of sport in the international arena.
Four students from Otago Boys’ High School have been selected in the under-16 Hawks to play the Flying Boomerangs from Australia.
Twenty-four players have been selected for the game against the indigenous team
in Wellington on December 14. Only five come from the South Island. The Otago Boys’ players in the team are Kaleb Forde-Fraser (15), Christian Blackie (16), Heta Scarf-Matthews (16) and Jarrell Pattison (16). They were introduced to the game by their teacher, Warwick Kain, and have enjoyed the challenge of the sport.
”I liked it and kept showing up,” Blackie said.
”It’s a quick and fun game, has very little structure and is pretty free flowing.”
Blackie, a halfback in the Otago Boys’ third XV this year, does not think he will give up his favourite sport for the Australian game.
Forde-Fraser has been fast-tracked and was picked in the New Zealand squad last year.
”The game’s got everything,” he said. ”It has short and long sprints and there is a bit of mongrel when you jump for the ball. It’s better than rugby.”
He made the New Zealand squad last year when he was 14 and went a step further this year.
”I’m stoked,” he said.
”It’s pretty cool being named in the team.”
Scarf-Matthews is a talented sportsman and was a member of the Otago Boys’ first XI football side this year.
”Australian rules is a sport that has got a mixture of other games,” he said.
”You have a bit of rugby, a bit of soccer and it improves your skills for other sports.”
It is the first time he has been named in a New Zealand team for any sport.
He is keen to get back in the team next year and follow the pathway into the national under-18 team and later the senior men’s team.
Australian rules has four 20-minute spells and is a fast game with 18 players from each side on the field at any one time. A game lasts 80 minutes.