Two years after debuting for the Eastern Ranges’ A grade on Anzac Day 2016, Cleve’s Cam Taheny got the opportunity to represent Australia in a match against New Zealand.
The match was part of the AFL Level One Academy tour of New Zealand, which also included a high performance camp in Wellington, a formal function at the Australia High Commission and attending with dawn service at the New Zealand National War Memorial.
“Being able to represent Australia was an amazing feeling but to be able to do it on Anzac Day against New Zealand was really special,” Cam said.
“Earlier in the week we visited the Gallipoli memorial at the Wellington Museum and learnt about New Zealand's involvement and what the day means to them as well as attending the dawn service as a team and paying our respects to those who served both nations.”
The forward flank said the high performance camp not only focused on football but also Anzac Day and was an experience he would never forget.
“Being able to meet and train with 24 of the best footballers around Australia in my age group was pretty awesome, I was able to make friendships that will last for many years to come,” he said.
“It was great to learn what the day meant for Australians and New Zealand, in particular when Travis Cloke talked about what it meant to him and how fortunate he was to play many Anzac day games.
“From a footy aspect I was able to learn a lot from the coaches and high performance staff, whether it was how I can get better at tackling or what I should be eating to be in the best shape I can be.”
The Anzac Day match, played at Westpac Stadium, saw Australia come away with a 105-point win, after the players started off nervously.
“Early on the game was very tight with many skill errors from both sides, possibly due to a few nervous Aussie boys after the New Zealand Haka,” Cam said.
“New Zealand were very surprising as they were able to replicate some of the ball movement we were doing, unfortunately they are still a fair way off of being at the skill level required to match us Australians.”
While the stadium had a lot of empty seats, Cam said the game felt close to an AFL match.
“The game was broadcasted live on the big screens with replays of highlights throughout the match.
“One of my favourite memories was warming up with music playing loudly in the background, this made up for some of the atmosphere lost by the low crowd numbers.”
After returning to South Australia, Cam has returned to the Norwood Football Club and Rostrevor College, where he boards, and he has also made the initial squad of 52 for the South Australian under 18 team.