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New Zealand\'s best set to shine in provincial championship

  • Thursday, August 19 2004 @ 01:15 am ACST
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Oceania Australia's AFL Grand Final weekend (25th-26th September) is shaping up as a big weekend for football in New Zealand, with Christchurch set to host the National Provincial Championship (NPC) and an international junior tournament at a number of venues in the Canterbury region.

The NPC, based upon a successful format used by rugby union, pits the four regional leagues (Auckland, Canterbury, Waikato & Wellington) against each other in a round robin tournament. Held over two days at QE2 Park in New Brighton, the NPC will ensure that all representative squads get a chance to show their skills against the other NZ leagues. Squad selection for the 2005 NZ Falcons tour to Australia will be conducted on Sunday after the final game.

The NPC format is an important cog in the Australian football scene in New Zealand. It provides players from the four regional leagues with a target to work towards - namely regional selection - which provides further opportunities to achieve selection in the national squad. Hopefully as Australian football continues its growth within the New Zealand school system more regional leagues will emerge providing further competition at the NPC.

Another big Australian football event in Canterbury during the 2004 National Provincial Championships will be the first New Zealand International Australian Football Youth Tournament (IAFYT). The week long tournament involves Under-16 representative teams from New Zealand and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The matches, scheduled for Christchurch's QE2 Park and Ashburton, will offer excellent opportunities for both sides to develop and exhibit their skills. Games featuring the reserves of each side have also been scheduled, giving all boys the opportunity to play which is excellent.

It is hoped that the IAFYT will become a regular fixture between the two squads, with games to be held both in Canberra and New Zealand in coming years. No doubt both teams would welcome future involvement from other interested squads as well. It is also heartening to note that the Canterbury AFL is fostering football in regional areas such as Ashburton (1.5 hours from Christchurch) and Hamner (1.5 hours) to complement its work in Christchurch.

All-in-all, Australian football in New Zealand looks set to get a huge boost from the NPC and IAFYT. And of course, the players and spectators will get the opportunity to watch the AFL Grand Final at a function at Christchurch sporting bar the Holy Grail @ 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon.

A final note: most NZ leagues have commenced pre-season training. Interested players can get involved by contacting local clubs in their region - new players are always welcomed.

The Canterbury AFL's upcoming tour to Melbourne has been supported by Scenic Circle Hotels.