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Leroy Sisnett
AUCKLAND, New Zealand
  American Football Wellington  


The sole regional body for American Football in Wellington its history clearly illustrates the challenges faced by the region during its development.  The national forum in April 2008 clearly details the tasks that the stakeholders undertook and must complete to reach the destination of the New Zealand American Football Association as the governing and national sports body for American Football in NZ.

Originally named 'American Football Southern Conference' to meet the needs of those interested in the sport of American Football in the lower part of the North Island of NZ.  Recently re-named to accurately reflect the geography of its competition and its members the former AFSC conference an affiliate member of the NZ American Football Association to build the sport within the borders of NZ since its formation in 1990.

Horst Maczuga the founding Commissioner of the AFSC was also the driving force of the sport and the competition, also recognizing the need to have a group that would meet the needs as officials of the game the 'NZGOA'.  The Macugza family committed their lives to introduce and establish a legitimate competition for the sport in the Wellington region and when Horst retired from the AFSC in 1999 - he and his family were recognized for the invaluable contribution to the AFSC.

The AFSC continued under the guidance of Gordan Brennan also a member of the NZGOA who had worked in conjunction with his predecessor Horst Maczuga to continue the AFSC as a viable entity and formalized the body which would offer qualified personnel as officials of the game.  Not content to serve the sport as AFSC Commissioner, he also became the founding President of the NZ Gridiron Officials Association in 1997 until his retirement from the sport in 2005.

The Wellington regional body since 2005 has gone through many changes and there have been facets of its competition that have unfortunately been dis-established during this time.  The regional body offered two grades of competition to members: U18 Junior grade and the Senior Men's grade.  The U18 Junior grade met the needs and interest of the Wellington youth and long term served as a feeder to the Senior Men's competition.  Unfortunately due the difficulties faced by the then administrators the U18 Junior grade suffered and was discontinued.  The legacy of the established AFSC U18 Junior competition or the U18 Junior Thunderbowl, the annual representative game between Wellington and Auckland, would not dissuade the AFW executive to revisit their decision.

The AFW regional body have trialled different competition formats for the Senior Mens competition from: the original 11 man football in 1990, to 7 man football in 2004, then 9 man football in 2005.  These changes have caused much debate during the intervening years and surreptiously the AFW membership have illustrated the desire to play football at the higher level - 11 man football; physically, competitively and passionately.  

AFW mandated the Hutt Valley High School competition which was based at local high schools, a programme that the NZAFA hoped would revive age grade football in the region.  The competition provided local players an avenue to learn, train and play American Football however the demands of the competition became difficult to correlate with the conditions of the Wellington Secondary Sport, the local schools and councils.  These matters considered meant that the programme would have to remodel itself and find another pathway for the youth in the region.

Presently the AFW regional body only offer the Senior Men's competition to members in the Wellington region.  Four clubs continue to shape the AFW competition:

Wellington City Wolves:

Hutt Valley Spartans

Porirua Knights

Linton Turbines

The current administration offer special dispensation to players 16years and 17years to apply for registration to participate in the AFW Senior Men's competition playing 11 man football, mandatory equipment applies with the AFW standardized competition rules.

During the formation of American Football NZ in 2003 the AFW Executive led by Commissioner Talia Belford willingly conceded, what the NZAFA considered as, their consitutional and representative right to a place on the new AFNZ Board.   During this period the AFW Commissioner Talia Belford was appraised and informed of every nuance of these discussions and needless to say this news was received with shock and disbelief.

Throughout the discussions with GNZ, mediated by SPARC, the NZAFA Executive (Leroy Sisnett, Matthew Timaloa, Raymond Gray, Faa Sisnett, Adrian Smith) relentlessly fought for equal representation for all bodies faciliating American Football in NZ - NZAFA, AFW, GNZ.  This view was not shared by the GNZ managment team (Brian Palalagi, Mike Mc Caw, Mervyn Hurley, Jim Hunter and Adam Campbell). 

It was with extreme reluctance and reservations clearly voiced to the AFW contingent - Talia Belford and Michael Wilson, that the NZAFA would continue with the present talks and, to quote the AFW representative 'if the AFW representation is a barrier to the progression of the current talks relating to AFNZ then the AFW willingly withdraw its representation in AFNZ'  the NZAFA would act accordingly to the decison made by the AFW Executive.  This one action has served to plague the same AFW administration and region in the ensuing years as they have debated for representation at national level administration for the future of the region and the sport.

The first ever national forum held in April 2008 attended by all stakeholders of the sport in NZ have faced the past, realized the truth of its consequences and agreed that the way forward will include and involve every region, with its member clubs, that presently faciliates American Football in NZ. 

The objectives of the regional body are clearly defined in the AFW constitution and the collective agreement that these stakeholders have indicated is their commitment to the recognition of the NZ American Football Association as the governing body for American Football in NZ.  Letters of support from the AFW clubs signed by their respective Presidents and club leaders were provided to SPARC to support the application for National Sport Organization in NZ.  

The rules based governance of American Football NZ will be replaced by a trust based governance of the NZ American Football Association and the constitution will be amended to reflect the will of the stakeholders.  The NZAFA constitution task group have been working with the deadline of 44 days to acheive the following tasks: create the amendments to the NZAFA constitution to include; new membership of the two regional bodies, new structure of the Executive committee and to complement the constitutions of the existing regions.  A simple yet effective change that will meet the transition process with more comprehensive changes to be adopted within the first year of governance. 


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