The U18 NZ Hawks have recently returned from their tour to Melbourne where they played an Interleague side from the Mornington Peninsula Junior Football League.
With 9 regions around New Zealand represented, one of the team values was to ‘Enjoy the Journey’ and along with playing the game, the team experienced the AFL culture in Melbourne from grass roots footy all the way up to the elite level.
Arriving in Melbourne last Wednesday, the Hawks were well prepared for a big week ahead in the home of AFL and straight away travelled to the Hastings Football Club (the oldest club in the Mornington Peninsula) for a mixed training session with their Mornington Peninsula opposition. This was followed by a welcome function and jumper presentation.
On Thursday, the team headed along to Trevor Barker Oval to watch the St Kilda Football Club train ahead of their match against the Greater Western Sydney Giants. Midfield coach Simon McPhee had a chat with the team about what it takes to become an AFL player and at the conclusion of training, St Kilda stars, Seb Ross and Tom Hickey had a Q & A session with the squad and spoke about what it’s like to play in the AFL. The Hawks then travelled to the home of the St Kilda Football Club, Linen House in Seaford for a tour of their facility. St Kilda’s New Zealand listed players Rowan Marshall (Taranaki), Joe Baker-Thomas (Wellington) and Barclay Miller (Canterbury) spoke to the whole team and answered some questions before showing them around the facility before heading out on the clubs main training field to run through their own drills.
Friday was game day and the squad were encouraged to rest up during the day to keep fresh for their game. Arriving at Mt Martha, it would be the first time the players would have experienced playing under lights. A big crowd from the local community turned out to watch the game along with friends and family that travelled from New Zealand to support the Hawks.
All the players were focussed during the pre-game preparations and were ready for the challenge ahead. West Aucklander, Carlos Donnell-Brown was named as Captain of the side which was voted on by the playing group. Alongside Carlos in the leadership group was Alastair Maisey (Auckland) and Blake Nahu (Waikato) who were voted Vice-Captains.
The majority of the Mornington side had never experienced a Haka before and were met with an up close and personal view before kick-off.
Mornington jumped out to an early lead kicking the first four goals of the game until Luke Dunning got the Hawks on the board with a set shot from 35m.
Trailing by 40 points at quarter time, the Hawks could have easily dropped their heads but they came out firing in the second half to kick the first two goals with best on ground Josh Mackie (Otago) and Brisbane based Callum Hill getting the Hawks back in the game. Clayton Walters, had a solid first half in defence, throwing himself into every contest.
Joel Brown from the Manurewa Raiders added to the tally with a snap from the forward pocket before University Blues small forward, Seb Serrano kicked a goal just before the siren to finish off a great third quarter for the Hawks.
At the final break, Head Coach Chris Mundell reminded the Hawks about their team values and to finish off the game strong. Captain Carlos Donnell-Brown and Otago based Hayden Johnston kicked another two goals in the final quarter but wasn’t enough to overcome a strong and highly skilled Mornington Peninsula side.
Josh Morgan-Ranui was also named best for the Hawks as he played his best game in the NZ Guernsey. Notable mentions also go to Max Hicks who was dominating the ruck and Dawson Nanai who had a great game playing off the half back flank.
The scoreboard didn’t reflect the game as they Hawks played extremely well and can be proud of their performance.
Goals: Luke Dunning, Josh Mackie, Callum Hill, Joel Brown, Seb Serrano, Blake Nahu, Carlos Donnell-Brown, Hayden Johnston.
Best: Josh Morgan-Ranui, Josh Mackie, Seb Serrano, Dawson Nanai, Max Hicks.
On Saturday morning, the side went to watch the Oakleigh Chargers play in the U18 TAC Cup. A competition which could link in well with the high performance pathway in New Zealand. To finish off the trip, the Hawks caught the tram to Etihad Stadium to take in their first AFL match and watched what a fantastic game of football as the 2016 Premiers, The Western Bulldogs came from behind to defeat the Richmond Tigers.
The Hawks returned home to New Zealand on Sunday with their heads held high after a successful tour to Melbourne and will be itching to get back into footy when the local club competition kicks off in August. For those interested in playing AFL in New Zealand click here.
AFL New Zealand would like to say a big thank you to Andrew Souter from the Mornington Peninsula Junior Football League for his assistance in organising a wonderful trip. The AFL, Mark Smart and the St Kilda Football Club, Mt Martha Junior Football Club, Hastings Football Club, Oakleigh Chargers Football Club and all the friends and family that travelled over to support the team.