The Grand Final of the Wellington AFL is approaching, promising to be an exciting culmination to the WAFL season.
The WAFL Grand Final will be held at Hutt Park, on Saturday the 14th of December, at 2.00pm.
The match will be held in conjunction with the AFL Flying Boomerangs tour of New Zealand. The AFL Flying Boomerangs are an Indigenous Australian Development team, and will play two matches against the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks on the 12th and 14th of December.
Having both matches at the same venue on the same day will provide an exciting opportunity for AFL fans in Wellington to watch high quality AFL.
The WAFL Grand Final will be contested by the Eastern Bulldogs, who represent the Southern and Eastern suburbs, and the North City Demons, who represent the Kapiti – Mana region.
The two clubs will make up a large proportion of the Wellington team, who will compete at the National Provincial Championships on the 7th and 8th of December.
From the North City Demons, Joe Baker-Thomas will be a player to watch. The Porirua teenager currently holds an AFL International Scholarship with the St Kilda Football Club. Another recent New Zealand representative at the club is Waylon Baker, who was part of the Under 18 New Zealand Hawks team who played a series against the Victorian Amateur Football Association in October. Their team also includes New Zealand Hawks player Sam McKenzie, known for his ability to take marks under heavy pressure.
The Eastern Bulldogs will have a very strong side going into the WAFL final, featuring many players who have represented New Zealand. Stanley Chung and James Terry played for the New Zealand Hawks, and Kade Riddell has played for various age grade New Zealand Hawks teams.
Both coaches are also highly experienced. Shannon Wall, who will coach the North City Demons, has been an assistant coach for various New Zealand Hawks teams, and Jason Wozniak from the Eastern Bulldogs will also coach the Wellington team at the NPC.
AFL New Zealand has experienced significant growth in Wellington over 2013. With thousands of children participating in AFL KiwiKick, and hundreds more teenagers participating in AFL Secondary School programmes, the future for the game in the capital is bright.
St Kilda Football Club played the first ever AFL competition match outside of Australia in Wellington on ANZAC Day in 2013. In a landmark agreement, the club has extended their commitment to New Zealand for five years, with the St Kilda Saints scheduled to take on the Brisbane Lions on ANZAC Day in 2014.
The agreement will have significant benefits for the sport of AFL in New Zealand. Opportunities for community participation, talent pathways for athletes and increased media exposure will greatly assist AFL New Zealand in the goal of making AFL a New Zealand sport.
The presence of St Kilda in Wellington will also be felt during the St Kilda AFL Community Camp, to be held in Wellington on February 12th to 14th. AFL Community Camps bring the sport to regions outside of where clubs are based, and provide an opportunity for fans to meet players.