Ready to give the Aussies a rough time

Central Leader - - Sport - By Scott Mor­gan

Un­der­wa­ter hockey isn’t meant to be a con­tact sport.

But for­mer Avon­dale Col­lege stu­dent and New Zealand women’s rep Stephanie O’Neale has seen her team­mates suf­fer their fair share of in­juries.

The Mt Al­bert res­i­dent, 20, will be on the look­out for fast-mov­ing pucks and play­ers swing­ing their sticks at the transtas­man un­der­wa­ter hockey tour­na­ment in Mel­bourne this week­end.

“You get bro­ken noses, jaws and can burst an eardrum.

“Peo­ple say in the wa­ter ev­ery­thing must be re­ally slow but it’s not.”

Winger Stephanie is con­stant- ly speed­ing up and down the pool try­ing to score goals and stop the op­po­si­tion from do­ing the same.

She trains in and out of the pool for sev­eral hours a week.

Stephanie isn’t the only for­mer Avon­dale Col­lege stu­dent at­tend­ing the tour­na­ment with brother Michael, 18, and Alex Si­galasBuchanan, 16, in the un­der-18 men’s team and Carly Black, 18, in the un­der-18 women’s team.

She and Michael have fam­ily his­tory in the sport with both par­ents for­mer New Zealand play­ers, while Alex and Carly took up the sport at col­lege.

While the women will go into the tour­na­ment as slight un­der­dogs against the world champ Aus­tralians, the men have a his- tory of dom­i­nat­ing their transtas­man ri­vals.

New Zealand women’s coach Tris­tan Rey­nard says the teams will come up against sides that in­clude play­ers from around the world, which can be a huge chal­lenge.

“They come down be­cause they know this is where the com­pe­ti­tion is at.

He isn’t sur­prised many of New Zealand’s top play­ers come from Auck­land, with a strong schools pro­gramme at the likes of Avon­dale Col­lege, Mt Al­bert Gram­mar and Ep­som Girls Gram­mar.

For more in­for­ma­tion on un­der­wa­ter hockey visit www.un­der wa­ter­hock­eynz.com.

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