Canterbury club rugby player's ambitious bid to make it in Aussie Rules

Kris Wilder reaches for a mark playing for the University Cougars. Photo: Matty Louis Photography
Kris Wilder reaches for a mark playing for the University Cougars. Photo: Matty Louis Photography
A Lincoln rugby stalwart has moved the goalposts by chasing an ambitious bid to make his mark in Australia’s premier football code.

Kris Wilder, a goal-kicking fullback and centre, made the transition to Australian Rules football last year, and now the 28-year-old has a chance to showcase his skills the day after Geelong and Richmond play out the pinnacle of the sport in Brisbane.

A first-year AFLNZ Premiership player, Wilder has an opportunity to impress scouts from the AFL’s 18 clubs when the full forward aims to help the Western Crows win back-to-back titles by upsetting favourites Southern Spirit at North Harbour Stadium on Sunday.

The odds are against Wilder drawing interest from across the Tasman, while the Crows are also likely to be in a battle after losing by 11 and then 48 points to the Spirit before Covid-19 halted the regular season in March.

Not that Wilder was fazed by the challenges.

“The season got abandoned because of Covid and then they decided to go ahead with the final," he said.

"We were sitting second on the table, so we head up at the weekend, which will be good."

Wilder is among a handful of players living outside of Auckland to feature in the premiership, and although familiarity will be lacking with his teammates, he has at least been keeping in AFL shape via the Christchurch club competition.

Wilder playing for Lincoln rugby. Photo: Karen Casey
Wilder playing for Lincoln rugby. Photo: Karen Casey
However, the Crows and Spirit will not have a training session with the non-Auckland players before the opening bounce - tactical discussions have had to be held online.

Wilder was drafted by the Crows last November, with the grand final originally scheduled for April 5 before the exclusively Auckland-based four-team premiership calendar was curtailed by the global pandemic.

The regular season lost two rounds but rather than switch focus to 2021, AFLNZ opted to bring the competition leaders together for a final.

“They’ve all been playing in the local leagues so that makes it a bit easier,” AFLNZ spokesman Tom O’Keeffe said.

“They’re not going to be so rusty with local footy and a pre-season. They’ll be fit and raring to go.”

Wilder started playing AFL last year during rugby’s off season and, after five games for the University Cougars in Christchurch, he made himself available for the AFLNZ draft.

“It is a fast game with a lot of running and a heap of athleticism.

"I’m just keen to see where I end up with it,” he said.

“It cost $600 to enter it (the draft)  but if you get drafted that covers your flights to Auckland (for games) and your meals, kit, warm-ups and ice baths etc.

“It’s quite professional in that sense - it’s like the Mitre 10 Cup in rugby, that’s the best way I can describe it.”







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