Strong NZ Hawks squad named to face Australia

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

Management Team

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