Talent runs deep
WATER polo continues to go from strength to strength but struggles for funding like most fringe sports.
The New Zealand Water Polo women’s programme is home to many of central Auckland’s talented athletes.
The national youth side made the huge climb from sitting at a 16th and 17th world ranking to diving into sixth place while facing off against the sport’s powerhouse nations in the space of a few years.
NZ Water Polo women’s programme convener Sharon Geary says members owe a lot to the quality of their coaching.
Former Hungarian national water polo player and coach Attila Biro has been leading the women’s programme since October last year.
‘‘New Zealand coaches are wonderful but international coaches have much more experience to pass on. In Hungary water polo is like rugby is here,’’ Geary says.
Hungary traditionally dominates in the pool at the Olympic Games with a total of nine gold medals to show for it.
The New Zealand women’s programme will be unable to keep its top international trainers without funding.
‘‘We would love to have Attila leading the programme again next year,’’ Geary says.
‘‘Funding is a huge issue for us but we are always looking at each possible avenue to make things happen.’’
There are talks of Olympic officials allowing 12 teams, as opposed to the current eight, to compete for the gold in the near future and New Zealand could be in with a shot at qualifying, she says.
‘‘Now it’s all about getting to that next level.’’
Two young water polo players will be hoping to maintain that momentum when they battle it out with the national youth team at the Trans-Tasman Challenge Series in Brisbane next week.
Herne Bay’s Chantelle Conroy and Westmere’s Savannah Palmer are both strong fixtures in their St Mary’s College and club teams.
‘‘It’s all about working together. Your attitude can affect how you play as a team,’’ Savannah says.
Both 14-year-olds say it is the quality of their coaching which keeps them on course.
Head coach Biro has great visions for the New Zealand women’s programme.
‘‘It’s really exciting. They’re not at their best yet, they need more development, but all the way through the programme there is very good potential,’’ she says.
Funding issues make it harder for New Zealand players and coaches to focus on training rather than fundraising compared with their European counterparts, he says.
The NZ under-15 side will compete for the TransTasman Challenge Cup from June 30 to July 5.
Staying afloat: The New Zealand Water Polo women’s programme is struggling for funding. Savannah Palmer, left, and Chantelle Conroy are competing with the New Zealand under-15 water polo team.
Water battle: Wellington East Girls College battle for possession in the team’s 4-all draw with Diocesan School for Girls in the Secondary Schools National Water Polo Championship.