VAFA work hard for victory over NZ Hawks

The U-18 New Zealand Hawks have been beaten by the U-18 Victorian Amateur Football Association, in a physical and entertaining match. Both teams acquitted themselves well, showing a willingness to take risks in the pursuit of points.

The match was the first time a visiting team from the Victorian Amateur Football Association had taken on a comparable age group team. The U-18 New Zealand Hawks proved to be strong opposition, confirming the progress made by the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme in recent years.

While one side had grown up with AFL footy, and the other had learned the game through secondary school programmes and high performance training, both teams brought intensity and physicality to the match.

The first goal for the Hawks came from a storming Siope Ngata run through the midfield, with Kyle Smith finishing the move with a beautifully accurate punt. James McKenzie gave the Hawks the lead with an incredible mark, before linking up a passing move with Kade Riddell, getting the ball back and booting it through from the edge of the circle.

Ben Miller was a rock on defense for the Hawks, bringing a calming presence to the team through his safe marking. Throughout the first half though VAFA were able to apply pressure on the Hawks, regaining the lead through Ergul and holding on to it.

The Hawks began the 2nd half with composure, stringing together passes and holding VAFA scoreless for a period. The tourists reasserted control over the 2nd half of the quarter though, turning almost every opportunity into points. An unbroken string of goals gave VAFA a big lead.

Superior teamwork and game-sense gave the Victorians their edge. Their awareness of positioning and what lines to run were noticeable, and overall the team worked as a cohesive unit. Many of the team also showed great skill in the air, particularly in rucks.

The final quarter began with the scoreboard showing a match already decided. However, the tenacity of the Hawks was heartening. Late in the game they were still scrambling on defense, and running hard to get into attacking positions. Their commitment paid off, as they managed to comprehensively outscore VAFA over the period, kicking 20 points and only conceding 2.

McKenzie had a particularly strong game, confidently taking marks in front of goal, shifting the ball forward through the wings and kicking goals with poise. In all, he finished with 5 goals, the highest tally of the match.

While the match may have finished with a lopsided scoreline of 103-51, for long periods of the game the contest was very even. VAFA deserved their win, though the Hawks showed they will not be easy to put away twice in a row. The next match will be played at Parrs Park on 7/10/2013.

Goals:

NZ Hawks:

McKenzie (5), Smith, Malama

VAFA:

O’Toole (2) Stoios(2), Ergul(2), Angley(2), Lovejoy, Hard, Gregory, Healey, Hickey, Waters, Grant, Moore

Photography by Dania Herdman