In this latest installment in the series on International footy, Bigfooty talks to Terry Anderson, the President of the Canterbury AFL in New Zealand.
The Canterbury Australian Football Association was founded in 1974, and is one of the oldest Australian football associations outside of Australia. It became the Canterbury AFL in 1998.
Terry moved to New Zealand fourteen years ago, and found his local competition via the phone book. He immediately immersed himself in the league. The following year he started his own team, playing at what he calls “the ripe old age of 44-48”. He has been involved at the committee level, but for the last seven years has served as president of the Canterbury AFL, As a result he’s seen the considerable developemts in the area since he arrived in Christchurch in 1999.
Terry heads up an AFL Canterbury committee of 12 people, elected every year. AFL Canterbury’s role is to foster the game, to encourage people to play and enjoy the experience.
AFL Canterbury consists of four senior sides at present.
Terry says that this is seniors only. They’ve apparently tried reserves competition in the past, but lack of numbers has made it near impossible to maintain. A junior schools tournament is held annually. The schools competition in the area has had fits and starts, and Terry has received some enquiries from local schools about kiwikick. AFL Canterbury did run a clinic once a week for juniors but no formal competition in 2013.
The competition is 18 a side, a plays on oval fields, utilising two main fields in the area. Sometimes needing two rugby pitches together where Cricket ovals arent available.
The league runs a full season, with clubs playing 10-12 games a year. The season is held between the rugby and cricket seasons with minor overlaps into the cricket season. Terry says between the full season, Provincial Championships and International cup, national players will end up playing for 12 months straight.
The senior competition had just over 200 players listed last year, although Terry says some dont stick around long, and theres likely a hard core group of about 120 odd players (about 30 a side).
The Canterbury provincial side has won the National Provincial Championships the last three times they were held. The 2013 competition was held this weekend in Christchurch, where Canterbury went down to Auckland by 50 points in game 4 of the 2013 NPC’s giving Auckland their first win for some time, and their fourth win overall.
Terry says the recent AFL game between Sydney and St Kilda in Wellington recieved good coverage in the media around Christchurch and has resulted in some interest being generated in the local competition.
Terry tells me that the biggest challenges for AFL Canterbury are green space, exposure and making the game attractive to participants. Theres a lot of rugby pitches in New Zealand, and AFL Canterbury have to find a cricket ground thats available or join two rugby pitches together. The profile is another problem, Terry says a lot of Australians come over and arent even aware that Australian footy is an option in New Zealand.
Terry says the emphasis is on growing the game, and would like to see more people playing, its one thing to have a schools program where you are told to play, its another to have willing players turn out on the weekend. At the moment junior footy in New Zealand consists mostly of school cluster tournaments which are run by AFL New Zealand.
Terry says that while the game is in its infancy in New Zealand, there is much room to grow, and with parents and volunteers getting involved, the prospects will only get brighter.
If you want to be involved in footy in the Christchurch area, please visit the AFL Canterbury website.
Other New Zealand Provinces
- Otago – The latest league to be added to AFL NZ.
- Wellington – winners of the NPCs in 2009. Wikipedia page says 4 teams, but may not have been updated recently.
- Waikito – is a two club compeition with a currently suspended season for 2014 due to lack of playing numbers according to their facebook page. Did not attend 2013 NPCs
- Auckland – there are 6 clubs in the Auckland league playing from September to December. Winners of the 2013 National Provincial Championships. Won the first two championships in 2004 and 2005, as well as 2007.
Bigfooty did an interview with Rob Vanstom, CEO of AFL NZ that you can find here. There is no audio for this interview.