Tal­ent runs deep

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

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.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

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.

Photo: KEVIN STENT

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.

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