Green Bay High School’s Declan Honan-Crann has had a busy last few weeks representing the New Zealand U16 and U18 teams in AFL, leading the U16s haka and earning a MVP accolade. He’s also been impressing playing for his club side Waitakere Magpies and was recently awarded the Rising Star award for round 7 of the New Zealand AFL Premiership.
College Sport Media caught up with Declan about his recent achievements playing AFL, as well as his three other sports, rugby, football and tennis.
Congratulations on playing for the NZ U16 and U18 teams recently. How special was it to put on the black uniform and represent New Zealand, and to also lead the haka for both teams?
I led the Haka in our first international on Anzac weekend against Australia in Wellington. An experience I will never forget, representing my country in sport at such a young age is a privilege I will always be thankful for. Calling the haka was special and losing my voice was very much worth it. Aside from that mum and dad deeply appreciated my efforts of showing leadership and displaying my culture in a New Zealand representative side.
Tell us about the matches on Anzac weekend, playing for the U16 National side (AFLNZ Academy)?
We played against Victorian side Mornington Peninsula. Unfortunately we didn't get the result we wanted, but the team efforts were appreciated by the supporters and coaches and we were proud of our efforts. First game was to understand how the Australians play, very tough side with loads of experience. I received the Man of the Match which gave me confidence and I was happy with how I played, considering I was up the previous night, vomiting from food poisoning before the first game. Our second game was played at Westpac Trust Stadium, and it was an immense experience I will hold deeply considering you don't have the chance to play in a huge stadium every day. We didn't get the win but the scoreline was definitely an improvement compared to the first game. We finished the campaign holding our heads high.
You recently went over to Australia with the New Zealand U18 Hawks? How was experience playing against the Australians on their home turf in Melbourne?
We played the one game on Mt. Martha Stadium. We went into the game hard with strong tackles and a simple gameplay of sticking to our role on the field. The atmosphere was amazing and the Australians came back hard with their experience and knowledge of the game, the first quarter let us down but the last 3 quarters we won, coming back with the momentum scraping towards a win, but unfortunately, just falling short. We were proud of our efforts and all the boys knew it was an experience we will surely never forget.
Over Easter you competed in the 2017 AFL New Zealand National Combine championship, along with 36 leading AFL players in New Zealand?
I took out the agility test with a time of 7.89sec, which personally I was really proud of and was presented a medal, 20m sprint with a time of 2.998sec, standing vertical leap was 70cm, running vertical leap was 80cm, and unfortunately pulling out of the beep test early because of lower back pains.
You recently won the AFL Premiership Rising Star Award for Round 7, was that a surprise?
It was, as it was my first week back into AFL after a hand injury and being out for six weeks. I broke my knuckle over summer. Being out for six weeks was tough but I was still running and making sure I was fit for when I came back into the game.
What local teams do you play for?
My club is the Waitakere Magpies, plus the AFL NZ academy. Unfortunately my school does not play AFL.
How did you start playing AFL and how long have you been playing?
I played for school in an inter-school tournament called the Hawks Cup, played for fun with mates for a run around then got asked to join the AFL Academy to develop my skills and progress growth onward to hopefully achieve more with AFL. This is my third year and I'm still learning and honing my skills each time I play.
What positions do you play in NZ, and what is your role is on the field?
I play wing, on-ball, half forward flank and sometimes fullback. As for any AFL player’s role on the field, the number one thing is communication. Talking to teammates so they know how to dispose the ball whether that be a kick or handball, or when to dispose by calling for it or telling them when they’re ‘hot’ which is a term for when someone is close to tackling etc. My role individually changes for each position I play, but for the one I played most in for premiers would be wing, which is making hard leads up and down the field creating options for a kick or handball, usually this position runs their guts out.
What are your goals in AFL?
I would love to continue with premiership and club footy and see where it takes me from there, it would be nice to play over in Australia but I’ll see where the future takes me.
How often are you practicing or training for AFL specifically? How much running is involved?
Not too often, I do fitness in my own time that being cross-fit or street running. But the game involves loads of running up and down the field, very fast game but that’s what I enjoy about it.
You also play other sports?
Rugby - I have played club which was my Suburbs team from only the age of 11-13, in that space playing in the Walter Dixon Tournament, which was Auckland based representative junior rugby, then continuing on to more trials with Roller Mills representative rugby and the U14’s blues development squad. Unfortunately not making the final team for those trials didn't stop me from playing at high school in the 1st XV since year 9, being the youngest player in the team.
The success over the past few years has been great, but now, not having a rugby team at school reduces my chances of improving my rugby game and enjoying it. I would not normally play football at all but I thought it would be good for fitness and a nice run around since the rugby hasn’t been available to me. I played my first inter-school game on the weekend and ended up scoring a goal and getting man of the match in my very first football game ever!
Tennis. I’ve always enjoyed playing it in my own time and only last year I joined a club to see how that went, so I entered a tournament for singles and doubles with my best mate Ben Adolph, and I ended up winning the singles tournament and placing second in the doubles with Ben.
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