Canoe Polo stars in the making

Adding more world medals to the tally was behind the first ever two-day training camp for future canoe polo stars, held in Palmerston North at the weekend.

Canoe Polo is an amateur sport which has been punching above its weight in recent years and, despite it being a male dominated sport, it is the women who have been collecting the medals.

Players from as far afield as Invercargill were taken back to the basics including off-water skills, boat skills, game tactics, refereeing and goalie training.

New Zealand Canoe Polo Association (NZCPA) Squad Director, David Morritt, was trying to develop a succession plan, having seen Australia go from gold medallists to underdogs in less than a decade.

“The Aussies were gold medallists in the mid-1990’s and their women’s team got bronze in 2012. We are now the dominant force in Oceania having really worked hard to train our teams representing the different age-groups, from under-18 to veterans, for the Oceania Championships,” he said.

However, every other year prior to World Championships, the applicants trialling for selection are the only ones who get the top training, Morritt said.

“Our NZ women’s team are the current World Champions and the U21 women’s team were bronze medallists at the last two World Championships.

Looking to address the gap, the Development Camp – Road to 2019-2022, was established, drawing in 56 young players aged between 13-18 years old to train in a high intensity environment.

Helping make the camp a success were NZ team coaches, 8 top local players, an accredited International Canoe Federation referee and a large parent support crew.

“We want to give our young athletes better skills which they can then carry through earlier in their sporting career and achieve higher accolades for themselves and New Zealand Canoe Polo. We want gold medals across the board.”

While NZCPA are already conducting selection training camps for this year’s yet-to- be-announced NZ teams heading to Canada in July, spectators can see what canoe polo is all about at the annual Atahua Cup tournament at Hokowhitu Lagoon on 3-4 February 2018.