The AFL New Zealand Heritage Team has been selected for 2015, showing the depth of involvement New Zealanders have in AFL at the highest level.
For the second year in a row, the team was selected by Warren Jones, Simon Black and Wayne Schwass. The 2015 Heritage team boasts an exciting mix of established AFL stars such as Marley Williams of the Collingwood Magpies and Sam Mitchell of the Hawthorn Hawks, youthful talent and home grown New Zealand players.
Warren Jones was born in New Zealand, and was part of a fearsome Carlton team that won the 1982 Premiership. He also played 31 games for St Kilda. Warren made the trip over to New Zealand and unveiled the team in front of 300 guests at the AFL New Zealand High Performance awards on the eve of the ANZAC Day match.
Shane Savage, who has been selected in all 3 Heritage teams believes a team representing the land of the silver fern is “not out of the question”. “One day down the track. There is a lot more work to do now. If the AFL can keep doing what it’s doing and gain more awareness with the people then it’s definitely a possibility,” Savage said.
To meet the criteria to be selected in the AFLNZ heritage team, each player must either have been born in New Zealand or have New Zealander parentage. The 2015 team consists of 10 players currently playing in the AFL week in, week out for their clubs.
The development programmes run by AFL New Zealand have a vision of AFL as a New Zealand sport. At every level of the game, from teaching schoolchildren the fundamentals through the AFL KiwiKick programme, to high performance training for athletes looking for a pathway in sport, to social leagues played on summer evenings, AFL in New Zealand is on a roll. The introduction of the AFLNZ Academy in 2015 was a major success in placing High School aged students on the pathway to AFL.
This is great news for the future of the sport in both countries. New Zealanders moving to Australia will have an understanding and enjoyment of the game, and Australian clubs will have a bigger pool of talented players to select from. The New Zealand Heritage Team is a reflection of the strong links that already exist between the two countries. A passion for AFL is one of those links that is growing stronger every year.