Budding Australian Football League (AFL) juniors could be playing the half-time game during a premier AFL game at Westpac Stadium early next year.
St Kilda Saints are hosting the AFL game for premiership points ‘outside’ Australia, against the Sydney Swans on April 25 in Wellington. And children participating in the AFL KiwiKick programme funded by KiwiSport through Sport Wellington could be scoring points in the half-time game, says AFLNZ Regional Development Manager James Terry.
“We aim to make the most of the fortnight leading up to the game by involving children in ‘have a go’ sessions with top players and at St Kilda training times. Basically they can rub shoulders with top Australian football players as well as elite Kiwi AFL players,” says James.
More than 1050 Wellington children have ‘tasted’ the sport during free sessions at Newtown, St Marks and Ngaio schools in the region since the AFL KiwiKick project began mid-September 2012. The tasters give both teachers and students the experience, fun and learning provided by the sport.
James is eager to provide taster sessions to schools wanting to take part. Follow up coaching clubs can then be booked for early next year – in time to join the excitement around the Anzac Day game.
James says the fundamental skills of kick, catch, pass and bounce, which can transfer to a wide range of sports, are built on during the AFL KiwiKick programme. Pupils also receive a pack containing a football and cap. Secondary school students deliver the programme in schools after attending a ‘coach the coaches’ leadership programme by AFL New Zealand.
Newtown School has just completed an eight-week AFL KiwiKick Club programme. Following the taster sessions in which 220 pupils (aged 5-12 years) participated, 60 continued with the after-school KiwiKick club.
Newtown School teacher Kelvin Harper says the programme has definitely made a huge impact. “The numbers of kids taking part in lunchtime ball games in the playground has definitely increased – they all want to practise their new skills.”
The AFL KiwiKick programme is based on an Australian model which has been running for 15 years and has 170,000 participants.
James says the introduction of AFL KiwiKick as a new sport in New Zealand provides an opening for new players to move through the grades quickly. A similar programme in Auckland has seen 25,000 new players now participating in the sport.
AFL New Zealand received KiwiSport funding of $65,100 through Sport Wellington to develop the AFL KiwiKick programme in the Wellington region over the next three years.
KiwiSport Manager Peter Woodman-Aldridge says “KiwiKick not only provides skills that can easily be transferred to a number of different sports, but also an opportunity to participate in the emerging sport of AFL. Furthermore, it’s going to be fantastic to see all these kids mixing it with top AFL players next year.”
Source: KiwiSport press release