U18 NZ Hawks produce best performance in Melbourne

The U18 NZ Hawks tour to Meloburne was a roaring success as the team produced their best ever game of footy to narrowly be defeated by Beaconsfield U19’s in what was a great game of AFL football.


Playing under lights at Beaconsfield Football Club in South East Victoria, it was the first time AFL New Zealand has toured Australia with an U18 side and the team was represented by 7 different regions from around the country.

All the players were focussed during the pre-game preparations and were ready for the challenge ahead. Aucklander, Josh Copeland, who was playing in his last U18 campaign was named as captain of the side by head coach Chris Mundell. Alongside him in the leadership group was Dan Carston (Bay of Plenty), Ben Armstrong (Northland), Connor McGeough (Wellington), Heta Scarf-Matthews (Otago) and Nathan Lenihan (Wellington).

The boys from Beaconsfield had never experienced a Haka before and were met with an up close and personal view before kick-off.

The Hawks got off to a fast start as the midfield won the early clearance through Heta Scarf-Matthews and delivered the ball into the forward line and young Rosmini College student Max Hicks pounced to kick an early goal. Beaconsfield replied quickly with three fast goals and take a 7-point lead into quarter time.

Sam Green (Wellington) and Alastair Maisey (Auckland) were fantastic on the half back line as they used their strength to break tackles and kick the ball out of the defensive end. Captain Josh Copeland also had a strong game in defence as his back line only let in one goal during the second quarter. Jackson Rolleston (Waikato) had his best game for the Hawks as he dominated the ruck for most of the game.

At half time, the team was only trailing by 3 points and head coach Chris Mundell was happy with the performance so far but knew there was long to go. His message was simple, keep focused, stay confident and stick to the game plan.

The Hawks were motivated going into the third quarter as Joel Brown (Auckland) kicked a tremendous goal early to put the team in front.

With the defence holding strong and the midfield working well together through debutant Tayne Lockwood (Wellington) and Dawson Nanai (Counties Manukau), the Hawks were looking like a team that had been playing together for a long time.

Down by nine points going into the final quarter, the team wanted to finish strong but a number of players went down with cramping which threw the young Hawks. In the end, Beaconsfield held on to win by 9 points.

A number of players produced their best ever footy and the team worked as a whole to stick to the game plan and attack the ball. The whole squad can be proud of what they achieved and use that game to only develop further in the game. “Having been a part of all U18 campaigns, that was the best performance by a team I have seen.” AFLNZ High Performance manager Mick Coultard.


The trip was an experience for the young group to bond and develop their football knowledge. The team travelled out to Dandenong to the AFL National Youth Girls Championships and watched NZ Kahu player Jolyn Collins play for Tasmania against the Indigenous Woomeras. The boys were shown around the St Kilda Football Club by Kiwi Saints Shane Savage and Joe Baker-Thomas before heading out on the clubs main training field to run through their own drills. On Thursday evening the group split up to head to four local football clubs and were given the opportunity to train with each team to get a feel of what the Melbourne football culture was like and on Saturday evening, the Hawks went to Etihad Stadium to take in their first AFL match and watched what a fantastic game of football as the Western Bulldogs defeated the Adelaide Crows.

Read more: Kiwi helps Tasmania secure first win at National Championships


The Hawks returned home to New Zealand yesterday 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 thank Jeremy Bourke from AFL South East for his assistance in organising the trip along with the St Kilda Football Club, Beaconsfield Football Club and all the friends and family that travelled over to the team.

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NZ Hawks: Maxwell Hicks 2, Joseph Alesich-Tamariki 2, Nathan Lenihan 1, Joel Brown 1