The NZ under 21 mens canoe polo team have made it to the finals of the European Cup being held in Assen, Netherlands this weekend as they build up to the ICF Canoe Polo World Championships in France at the end of the month.
The team, captained by Sam Hapeta of Palmerston North, will come up against Germany following five wins and one loss in their journey to the finals. Ironically, their only defeat in this competition was against Germany with a loss of 5-2 in their first game of the tournament.
They fared better in theirnext games winning against Sweden 10-0, Denmark 5-4, Lithuania 13-3, Poland 8-4 and a tight semi-final against Netherlands 2-1.
Hapeta is upbeat about their chances in the final saying the team are working well together.
“We were a bit rusty in our first game against Germany. We know they are going to be tough in the final but they are beatable”, Hapeta says. “The other teams are scoring from fast breaks rather than getting through our strong defence and we are definitely playing good New Zealand polo which these European teams are not used to.
New Zealand will play Germany overnight (NZ time).
As an amateur sport, each player has had to fundraise the $8000 cost of attending. Next weekend they play in the Breizh Cup in France, the following weekend at the Poppies Tournament in Belgium before arriving in Normandy, France for the World Championship from 22-29 September.
You can follow the team at https://www.facebook.com/u21juniorpaddleblacks
The team are:
|Junior Paddle Blacks (under-21 men)Sam Hapeta (captain) – Palmerston NorthJordan Hinton – Hawke’s Bay
James Gibb – Auckland
Jade Johnson – Christchurch
Aaron Crabb – Palmerston North
Ollie Maassen – Palmerston North
Max Whitaker-Mills – Palmerston North
Rod McDonald – Auckland