Sport Wellington has played a key role in the success of AFL New Zealand programmes and events across the Wellington region.
The Regional Sporting Trust has provided support for programmes that enhance the sporting landscape of New Zealand, resources for events and helped facilitate groundbreaking initiatives that have brought top level AFL to Wellington.
Through providing support and funding for the AFL KiwiKick programme, Sport Wellington has assisted AFL New Zealand in delivering to 3,438 participants age 5-12 across the 2013 financial year, from a base of zero in 2012.
AFL KiwiKick teaches fundamental movement and ball skills, and enables participants to become lifelong participants in sport. Skills learnt in AFL KiwiKick are transferable to a wide variety of sports.
Chris Steffensen, a teacher from St Joseph’s School in Upper Hutt, noted the benefits of AFL KiwiKick in providing a pathway to further participation in sport.
“The game teaches the students so many things, like working together, communication, spatial awareness and thinking on their feet. Our students are really keen to continue playing the game and I haven’t had that from any other sport.”
Further reviews have extolled the inclusive nature of AFL KiwiKick. Edwandie Kruger from Birchville School was impressed by the ease at which girls got involved.
“AFL gives all students the opportunity to get involved. The girls did not feel excluded as the game gave them the opportunity to participate as well in a boys team.”
AFL New Zealand will continue to deliver the AFL KiwiKick programme, as it both delivers on key outcomes specified by Sport New Zealand and KiwiSport, and gives all participants an affinity with the sport of AFL.
A further area of development in Wellington has been AFL Secondary Schools programmes, delivered to more than 1000 participants in Wellington. Programmes include intra and interschool competitions, and education, training and leadership programmes that use AFL as a context for learning.
These programmes have been warmly received by Secondary School teachers, in particular programmes that help students develop skills for the workforce. Liam McKinley, a P.E teacher at Rongotai College, had this to say about the Coach the Coaches Programme:
“Coach the Coaches is easy to follow and very clear on what a successful lesson needs. The coaching lesson plan book is also a very useful learning tool. AFL New Zealand runs a very professional course.”
From Secondary School involvement, participants have gone on to be part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme and Wellington AFL Club league. Many Wellingtonians have even gone on to represent New Zealand at AFL.
Another major feature of AFL in Wellington is the involvement of the St Kilda Football Club, who play an annual AFL competition fixture in Wellington on ANZAC Day.
The St Kilda Football Club have signed an agreement with the Wellington City Council to play matches in Wellington for five years, a great result for both the sport and the city.
The support of Sport Wellington and strong AFL New Zealand successes in KiwiSport projects were major enticements for St Kilda to sign both the initial one match deal, and the subsequent five year extension.
At the recent AFL match against the Brisbane Lions, thousands of students from schools around Wellington were in the crowd. Students from ten schools were also invited to play AFL 9s on the Westpac Stadium field at half time, a unique and exciting experience for them.
Wellington has been a centre for AFL New Zealand High Performance events, including age group National Championship tournaments, the AFL New Zealand National Combine and International AFL matches, including a tour from the AFL Flying Boomerangs, a team selected from the best young Australian Indigenous AFL players.
Sport Wellington provided resources for these events, which greatly enhanced the experience of players, coaches and spectators.
Wellingtonians are becoming more familiar with local success stories in AFL, in particular the success of Joe Baker-Thomas of Porirua. The St Kilda Football Club signed Joe Baker-Thomas to an AFL International Scholarship in April 2013, giving him the opportunity to secure a career in AFL.
Joe was recently nominated for an award at the Dominion Post Wellington Sportsperson of the Year Awards, in the category of Wellington City Council Emerging Sportsman of the Year.
He first played the game as a student at Porirua College, taking part in the Hawks Cup interschool AFL competition. The success of Joe Baker-Thomas shows a pathway exists for talented Kiwi athletes to excel through AFL.
More than 100 Wellingtonian students participacted in Hawks Cup competitions last year, and of that number approximately 20 were invited to be part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme.
The future of AFL in the capital is bright, with the next major initiative to be implemented the reintroduction of Play AFL Clubs. Play AFL Clubs will offer all participants the opportunity to play AFL KiwiKick and AFL 9s at convenient times and locations.
Play AFL Clubs will be supported by further expansion of the AFL KiwiKick and AFL Secondary Schools programmes into new schools, along with the growing number of AFL fans in Wellington who have been converted through the ANZAC Day matches.