The U-18 New Zealand Kahus made history when they became the first ever female AFL team to represent New Zealand. Their opposition were the tough and highly skilled Australian Youth Girls team, known as the Australia Breeze. The match was played at Parrs Park in Auckland as part of the AFL International Youth Girls Cup.
Both teams were saluted with their national anthems, while they lined up proudly on the field. The moment was a special one for all players. Months of hard work were paying off, culminating in representing their country.
The match itself started with a flurry of goals to the visiting team, during an initial period where the Kahus struggled to find their feet. The Breeze clinically kept hold of the ball, and made every opportunity count.
Through the second quarter this trend continued, however the Kahus began to show some fight. One area where they were the match of their opposition was going into the contact area. Kayla Paniora regularly got above her opposition to take defensive marks, some right in front of her own goal. Both Firth Bidois and Claudia McMeekin-Currin tackled ruthlessly, giving their opposition plenty of incentive to not get caught with the ball.
A small but passionate crowd had come to Parrs Park in Oratia to witness the event. The support for the Kahus was heartening, with spectators cheering every mark and passing move, urging their team on. Many parents of players were in attendance, continuing the strong support that they have given the Kahus to date. Firth Bidois earned a round of applause when she scored the only goal for the Kahus over the course of the match.
For the visitors, a few players stood out as high quality footballers. Ashley Sharp, Chelsea Ansell, Sabrina Traub and Karly Tapner were all very confident in front of goal, scoring multiple times each. The final score reflected this, with the match ending 269-9.
The match was a learning experience for both teams, but particularly for the Kahus. For all of them, AFL is a new sport, and most have played only a few matches. The step up in intensity from the training field to playing against the best footballers from Australia was a big one.
However, there were encouraging signs throughout the match that with more time on the field, the Kahus would grow into becoming a formidable team. As Coach Mick Coultard noted, “Every quarter they played better than the previous quarter.” The tenacity of the Kahus will stand them in good stead for future challenges. In particular, Kiana Lang, Firth Bidois, Claudia McMeekin-Currin and Kayla Paniora were noted by Coultard as impressive performers.
The next match in the series will also be played at Parrs Park, on 7/10/2013. After that match the teams will travel to Whangarei for the final game, to be played on 9/10/2013.
Photography by Dania Herdman