Peter Halstead realises cross-code dream with NZ Hawks AFL callup
A knee injury cut short Peter Halstead's AFL NZ Premiership season, but it didn't stop him achieving his goal of making the New Zealand Hawks team.
The former Team Wellington football striker will pull on a New Zealand guernsey for the first time at the Australian Football International Cup in Melbourne, starting on August 5, having got the nod in the 28-man squad last month.
But his place wasn't always certain after playing only two games for the Northern Suns in the nine-game premiership season in February.
"I snapped my PCL in my knee in the second game," the 33-year-old Wellington physiotherapist said.
*Halstead turns ruckman
"I knew I'd done something, but being a physio that doesn't really help you [to stop]. You just get too competitive. I played on and it blew up. I got a scan and that was the end of the season."
He talked to the New Zealand coaches after the injury to tell them he was still keen to play for New Zealand and received his callup after a training camp.
"I think I managed to just squeeze in," he said with a laugh.
"The coaches had seen enough, they've seen me play quite a bit before, I just haven't played in this New Zealand setup."
The selection has meant some long hours of rehab and strengthening work to get the knee into shape, which goes alongside the six-day-per-week training programme from the Hawks coaching staff.
Two of those days are skills-based with the other Wellington members of the squad, James Kusel and Misilifi Faimalo.
"You've got to be pretty committed, I imagine it's like other small sports where if you're in a New Zealand team you've got to be very self-motivated," Halstead said.
New Zealand have finished in the top three at the International Cup at all five iterations of the event since 2002, with their lone win coming in 2005. The tournament is essentially AFL's world cup, minus Australia.
Halstead said team goals were yet to be set, but he would be going there with the expectation of winning it.
"To be fair, I don't really want to go over there and muck around, I'm there to try and win it. There's no point in just turning up to make up numbers."
Halstead will be playing ruckman and full forward, similar positions to the target man role he predominantly played in football.
Halstead said at this stage of his sporting career he was well-suited to the endurance-based, physical nature of AFL.
"The problem with soccer is I'd still be trying to out-sprint these 20-year-old's, which was pretty depressing, I'd lost that pace I had, not that I was ever that quick.
"Whereas in Aussie Rules I don't have to be as speedy quick. It's more endurance, so I quite like that aspect."
The two other former champions at the tournament, Papua New Guinea and Ireland, are expected to pose the biggest challenge to New Zealand in their quest for a second title.
The tournament final will be played as the curtain-raiser to the Collingwood-Geelong Cats match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 19.