ST KILDA has made a splash in New Zealand as it spreads the football gospel ahead of the first AFL game played for points outside Australia.
The Saints will take on the Swans at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on Anzac Day and are visiting the city as part of an AFL Community Camp three months before the historic clash.
In an interview with Wellington radio station Newstalk ZB, coach Scott Watters and forward Beau Wilkes explained the basics of a sport that is still foreign to many New Zealanders.
“On first look at the game it can be quite confusing when you come from a rugby background which is line vs line,” Watters said.
“The Australian Rules game in some ways is similar to soccer where there is no off-side rule. That is one of the biggest differences but one of the great parallels of the two sports is the combative nature of the game.”
The buzz around the clash with the Swans is building after tickets recently went on sale and Watters said he was hopeful that the Saints could transplant some of the Australian passion across the Tasman.
“It’s our number one sport, there is no doubt about it,” he said.
“Even with the ticket sales, when you look at the Anzac Day tickets that just went on sale last week, very quickly there were 3000 tickets sold, we would expect there would be a lot of Australians who would come across to watch the game and we’d hope some of the locals would come out and have a look.”
Wilkes acknowledged the difficulties that would come in cracking into a sports market that is so rugby-dominated but said he was confident that locals could be won over by Australian football.
“That’s going to be the challenge but that’s why we’re here now, to promote our game as best we can,” the 26-year-old said.
“It is exciting and it is a blend of athleticism, strength and endurance. It is so demanding of the players to perform at that high level. It is exciting and we’re asking people to give it a chance and have a look because it is a great spectacle.”
While Australian football does have a little bit of coverage on New Zealand television, Wilkes said it was only when fans watched a game live that they could truly build an appreciation of the sport.
“It’s not just the immediate players around the ball where all the action is. There are blocks that are running off the ball and structures you are setting up down the ground,” he said.
“That’s the beauty of the game that there is always something going on down the ground and as a spectator there is always something to watch.”
For more information about the Saints in New Zealand, visit http://www.saints.com.au/NZ
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