New Zealand have made a strong start to their 2017 International campaign after defeating Nauru by 47 points at Royal Park in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.
In the last game of a busy day at Royal Park, a big crowd came to watch New Zealand (and especially the Haka) take on Nauru for the first time in the competitions history.
The team has been preparing for this campaign for the last six months and were fast out of the blocks as they raced to a twenty five point lead at quarter time. Western Crows midfielder, Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas bamboozled the Nauru defence all day to provide a solid base in the midfield. His evasiveness around the ground meant he could provide the forward line with some good quality football.
Up front, St Kilda International scholarship holder Barclay Miller had an outstanding game in the forward line. The 19 year old generally plays as a defender for the Sandringham Dragons and enjoyed his time up front for New Zealand kicking 2 goals and was a strong target for the midfield.
Jackson Clince was strong on debut. After settling some early nerves, Clince proved why he was selected in the International Cup squad with effective disposals and solid defence.
The Kiwi’s were consistent for all four quarters as Captain Andrew Howison and James Kusel lead from the front. Wellington’s Kusel is the Captain for the Northern Suns in the AFL New Zealand Premiership and his leadership shone through as himself and Howison controlled the game. James provided the crowd with some entertainment in the fourth quarter, kicking a booming goal from the center square to extend the New Zealand lead.
New Zealand: James Kusel 2, Barclay Miller 2, Jackson Clince 1, Sam McKenzie 1, Brendan Clark 1, Carlos Donnell-Brown 1, Will Gregson 1, Misilifi Faimalo 1, Ben Hick 1, David Rattenbury 1.
New Zealand: James Kusel, Andrew Howison, Barclay Miller, Liam Beattie, Jackson Clince, Joe Baker-Thomas.
New Zealand next play Fiji on Wednesday in what will be a hard running, physical battle. Fiji defeated France in Round 1 will give them confidence for when they come up against their Pacific neighbours. The game will be played at the St Kilda Football Club’s training facility, Linen House in Seaford. First bounce at 12.30pm and entry is free.