Siope Ngata Feature on ABC

Hawthorn International Scholarship holder Siope Ngata is the focus of a news piece from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on AFL in New Zealand. Watch the video here, transcript below.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Broadcast: 23/04/2013 Reporter: Dominique Schwartz

The first AFL Premiership points to be played for outside Australia are part of an Anzac Day match that sees Aussie Rules trying to win converts in New Zealand, but can it work?


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: On Anzac Day this Thursday the AFL will make history in New Zealand with the first ever match for premiership points being played outside Australia. Defending premiers, the Sydney Swans, will do battle with St Kilda in Wellington aiming to win not only points on the AFL ladder but also converts to Aussie Rules, both fans and players. Here’s New Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ, REPORTER: Rugby is more than New Zealand’s national sport. It’s an obsession. Schoolboys dream of representing the country as an All Black, girls dream of dating them.

SIOPE NGATA, RUGBY PLAYER: Rugby’s really important to me because, it’s always been a dream to become an All Black. Always – every kid’s dream.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Fifteen year old Siope Ngata has a better chance than most of living the dream.

GRAEME PHILLIPS, AORERE COLLEGE RUGBY DIRECTOR: He’s very talented. He’s um, he’s obviously still very young but he’s got, he’s got everything that he needs in his tool box already.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Siope is a student at Aorere College in South Auckland. His talent was spotted early. At just 13 he was training with the senior side. Now he’s a team leader and was last year named the school’s best junior sports all rounder. Which is exactly why the Hawks are swooping. Siope Ngata is one of a growing number of Kiwis who are being encouraged to swap the pass for the handball. And the scrum for the specky. What’s your favourite part of Aussie Rules?

SIOPE NGATA: The high catches, of course. You’ve got to try to get that screamer. Get over the player.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Australian Rules football actually has a long history in New Zealand. It was first played here in the 1860s and in 1908 the Kiwi national side beat NSW and Queensland in an Australasian carnival in Melbourne. But the code didn’t survive the world wars and a growing popularity with Rugby Union but it’s been making a comeback since the 1970s. There are now five leagues in the AFLNZ and national teams which compete as the New Zealand Hawks. They will be centre stadium in Wellington on Anzac Day when they take on the South Pacific in a curtain raiser for the landmark Swans/Saints clash. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you might be representing New Zealand in Australian Rules football?

SIOPE NGATA: I never knew Australian Rules football existed.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: It’s been a stellar rise for the rugby kid who tried Aussie Rules just for a bit of fun.

MICK COULTARD, NZAFL HIGH PERFORMANCE MANAGER: Siope, he played in the junior Hawks Cup in December last year which is an interschool competition for juniors. It was really exciting football to watch from someone who’d never played the game before.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Exciting enough to catch the eye of spotters for the Hawthorn Football Club, which has signed Siope on to a three year development scholarship. He’s following in the footsteps of Kirk Herberly and Shem Tatupu, fellow New Zealanders who’ve both been signed as international rookies with the Hawks.

GRAEME WRIGHT, HAWTHORN RECRUITING MANAGER: Geographically New Zealand’s close, obviously only three hours away. So it’s as close to Perth in relation to flight time. but also too it’s got some fantastically talented athletes.

KIWIKICK TEACHER: Can you guys remember what the second skill we learnt in Kiwikick is called? The hand pass, awesome.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: The AFLNZ supported by Hawthorne is working to catch potential players and fans early. Hey, what do you think of AFL?

BOY: Cool.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: This year 40,000 New Zealand school students will take part in Kiwikick, a six week program introducing the basic skills of Aussie Rules.

KIWIKICK TEACHER: One of our main goals with the Kiwikick is to get, get the kids playing AFL but also enjoying it. If they’re enjoying it hopefully we can get them continuing on in the sport, watching it, playing it.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: And it seems to be working. Who’s going to sign up for the after school program?


DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Aussie Rules is also winning a new following at the Ngata household. Despite having to compete with rugby, netball and basketball. Siope’s father, Affa no longer changes the channel when AFL comes on. What do you think of it now?

SIOPE’S FATHER: I think half and half now.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: But eight year old Filoni is hooked and will be trading rugby for…



SIOPE’S MOTHER: Another one!

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: As for Siope he’s not yet ready to boot aside his All Black dream. He will continue his Rugby for the next three years while being immersed in AFL.

LEIGH SALES: We’ll be hearing more of him I’m sure. Dominique Schwartz reporting.