New Zealand national Australian rules football team
|Ground(s)||Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand|
|Hutt Park, Lower Hutt, New Zealand|
The New Zealand national Australian rules football team nicknamed the Hawks, is the national team for the sport of Australian rules football in New Zealand. The team is selected from the best New Zealand born and developed players, primarily from the clubs of the New Zealand AFL. New Zealand-born players in the Australian Football League are not considered for selection. The team mainly plays only for the purposes of the Australian Football International Cup, and won the tournament in 2005.
The NZ Hawks wear a distinctive silver and black ADIDAS uniform which consists of a guernsey (singlet), shorts and socks. The guernsey contains New Zealand's silver fern and the Hawks logo. Before every match, similar to the all blacks, the NZ Hawks will perform a haka.
The Hawks are the modern version of the team that defeated both New South Wales and Queensland at the Jubilee Australasian Football Carnival. Australian Football was seldom played in New Zealand between 1908 and 1974.
New Zealand was reintroduced to international Australian Football at the Arafura Games in 1995. The team also competed in the 1997 and 1999 games, winning the Silver medal in each year of the competition as runners up to Papua New Guinea.
The team competed in the inaugural 2002 Australian Football International Cup finishing in 3rd place.
Warming up for the 2005 International Cup, the Falcons played a touring Maffra (from the strong Victorian Country Football League in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia) at Manurewa in New Zealand but were defeated by 70 points, dulling expectations of the team's appearance in the next international event, but at the same time displaying the massive disparity between the competitive level of the sport in the two countries.
However with the growing popularity of Aussie Rules in New Zealand, the much improved 2005 New Zealand International Cup side went through the competition undefeated, claiming the title of International Champions by defeating Papua New Guinea in the Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, effectively claiming the title from previous winners Ireland. The team took most by surprise and no other side was able to come close to winning against them.
The Falcon's best and fairest player (from the 2005 International Cup) was Matthew Callaghan.
Following the overwhelming success of the team's 2005 International Cup appearance, the Falcons were invited to play at the Australian Country Championships in 2006 to be held on the Gold Coast. The qualification rules of this competition are more lenient, and the Falcons were able to play non-New Zealand born players to make them competitive against Australian sides from country leagues. The Falcons were not successful at the event, losing heavily to Queensland, by 9 points to Victoria B and by 63 points to the Indigenous All-Stars.
Warming up for the 2008 cup, New Zealand were once again convincingly defeated by Maffra. The team, however went on to win all of its first 3 rounds by massive margins, leading its pool by a massive percentage to play-off in the finals against Ireland, Papua New Guinea and South Africa. Though the Falcons lost to a determined Papua New Guinea in the Grand Final. Richard Bradley was the tournament's equal leading goalkicker with Canada's Scott Fleming and was one of three New Zealanders selected in the All-International (world) team.
Since 2012 the nation side has played agains the Australian AIS. The first game was own convincingly by the AIS by 91 points. 2011 saw the AIS win by 44 points and in 2014 it took a goal in the final minutes to win their third straight game by only 4 points.
Some of NZ's past and present players include-
Shem Tutupo - Hawthorn Hawks International Rookie ( AFL) Joseph Baker Thomas - St Kilder International Scholarship Holder (AFL) Cameron Illet - NT Thunder (NEAFL) / St Mary's (NTFL) Khan Haretaku - Frankston Dolphins (VFL) / Sydney Swans (Rookie List) Matt Argus -NT Thunder (NEAFL) Lachlan Argus - NT Thunder (NEAFL) / St Mary's Brendan Clark - NT Thunder (NEAFL) / Tiwi Bombers Andrew Howieson - Sandringham Dragons reserves (VFL) / Old Collegians (VAFA) Wayne Schwass - Sydney Swans (AFL) Andrew Christiansen - University Blues (VAFA) Mitchell Ryan - Frankston Dolphins (VFL) Justin Clark- Old Collegians (VAFA) Kurt Hedtherley - Hawthorn Hawks Rookie List (AFL)
In 2009 Hawthorn launched a community-based program called 'HANZ-UP! AFL Program' in New Zealand. The Hawks announced they had entered the New Zealand market, with an initial three-year deal with an option to extend the partnership until the end of 2018.
AFL NZ and NZ Hawks Sponsors
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- New Zealand Representative Falcons page on NZAFL site
- Google Video of Falcons performing the 'Haka' at the 2005 International Cup
- Australian Rules coverage from the NZ Herald