The New Zealand Hawks are preparing to face the AIS AFL Academy in Wellington, boasting a strong squad that has every chance of success in the tour fixture.
The match between the New Zealand Hawks and the AIS AFL Acedemy will be held at The Westpac Stadium in Wellington, on the 25th of January 2014. Entry into the stadium will be free.
The New Zealand Hawks last played the AIS AFL Academy in January 2013, in a match that finished with the Australians emerging with a hard fought win. This year the fixture promises to be equally as competitive.
The squad will blend youth and experience, and feature New Zealanders based both around the country and in Australia. Contingents of players are currently training in Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, Melbourne, and the Northern Territory of Australia.
Many of the named New Zealand Hawks have represented their country before, including in the 2013 fixture against the AIS AFL Academy. Returning players include the Vice Captains of the 2013 NZ Hawks team, Michael Gregson and Andrew Howison. Andrew Christensen, Sam and James McKenzie, Kade Riddell and Shane Leat, among others, will also be adding to their current number of New Zealand Hawks caps.
Stars of AFL in New Zealand will also be part of the New Zealand Hawks squad, including 2013 AFL New Zealand NPC Player of the Tournament and Otago stalwart Ben Miller. Current NPC champions Auckland are well represented in the squad, with an 11 player contingent.
The presence of AFL International Scholarship players Siope Ngata and Joe Baker-Thomas will make for an intriguing contest with their AFL AIS Academy peers. Ngata and Baker-Thomas, of the Hawthorn Football Club and the St Kilda Football Club respectively, are seen as potential future professional AFL players. Their performance against the AIS AFL Academy will be a key measure of their progress.
Much of the squad has also been selected from Australian leagues. As more New Zealanders pick up the sport, the number of eligible players involved in high level AFL competitions has grown.
One such player is Khan Haretuku, of the Frankston Dolphins. Haretuku will be returning to the New Zealand Hawks after enjoying a strong season, kicking 13 goals across 10 matches for the Dolphins.
Members of the New Zealand Hawks also represent the Northern Territory Thunder, with a four man contingent led by Thunder captain Cameron Ilett joining the squad. Their experience will be crucial in strengthening the New Zealand Hawks.
Such a strong squad would not have been possible without the hard work of all involved in the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme. Most of the players in the squad have come through this pathway, in many cases having represented New Zealand at age group level.
The match between the New Zealand Hawks and the AIS AFL Academy will whet the appetite of AFL supporters in Wellington, which is set to host further ANZAC Day matches. After the success of the inaugural Wellington ANZAC Day match, the St Kilda Saints have extended their commitment to cover the next five years.
New Zealand Hawks Squad:
Michael Gregson – Auckland
Shane Leat – Auckland
Matthew Argus – Northern Territory
Michael Boyce – Auckland
Samuel McKenzie – Auckland
James McKenzie – Auckland
Cameron Ilett – Northern Territory
Jay Johnson – Auckland
Andy Christensen – Melbourne
Andrew Howison – Melbourne
Lachlan Argus – Northern Territory
Tim Morton – Auckland
Brendan Clark – Northern Territory
Ben Miller – Otago
Sean Butler – Canterbury
David Rattenbury – Auckland
Jared Court – Canterbury
Kade Riddell – Wellington
Cam Bailey – Canterbury
Will Gregson – Auckland
Siope Ngata – Auckland
Matt Crighton – Canterbury
Khan Haretuku – Melbourne
Joseph Baker-Thomas – Wellington
Justin Davies – Head Coach
Mark McKenzie – Assistant Coach
Andrew Congalton – Assistant Coach
Paul Hudson – Assistant Coach
Tim Stevens – Team Manager
Jenny Lucy – Team Physio
Monique Vujcich – Team Physio