Un­der­wa­ter hockey pair out to de­fend their world ti­tle

Central Leader - - SPORT - By ALASTAIR LYNN

Not many teams can say they’ve been reign­ing world cham­pi­ons for the last five years.

The New Zealand Un­der-19 Women’s Un­der­wa­ter Hockey team are con­fi­dent about round­ing it up to an even six.

Brooke Stevens and Zoe Jarvis have been train­ing with the team for the last eight months in prepa­ra­tion for the 2015 World Age Group Cham­pi­onships in Spain.

‘‘It still hasn’t re­ally hit us yet that that we’re go­ing and rep­re­sent­ing New Zealand,’’ Brooke says. ‘‘I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to the open­ing cer­e­mony. I think that’s when it will hit me the most.’’

The cham­pi­onships start on Au­gust 6, leav­ing lit­tle more than a month to tighten up a hardy game plan. An im­pres­sive history at the com­pe­ti­tion poses a daunt­ing chal­lenge, but it is one the team is ready for.

‘‘We put all this ef­fort into eight months of train­ing and we can fi­nally see the pic­ture we’ve been striv­ing for,’’ Zoe says.

The Mt Eden res­i­dents spent June 12 to 14 rep­re­sent­ing Ep­som Girls’ Gram­mar at the North Is­land Sec­ondary School Cham­pi­onships. Com­ing away with a 4-2 win over Dioce­san School in the fi­nals, ri­val­ries have now been put aside as at­ten­tion turns to the up­com­ing tour­na­ment.

‘‘It’s a dif­fer­ent vibe when you come to play for your school,’’ Brooke says. ‘‘It’s a lot more in­tense play­ing [for your coun­try].’’

Un­der­wa­ter hockey is con­sid­ered a niche sport but a strong sup­port­ive com­mu­nity can be at­trib­uted to New Zealand’s suc­cess.

‘‘It’s such a nice at­mos­phere,’’ Brooke says. ‘‘The peo­ple, the com­mu­nity ... we’ve got so much sup­port.’’

Out­side of the pool this may be the case but ev­ery­thing changes the mo­ment the buzzer goes in the pool.

Tak­ing some well trained ag­gres­sion to the com­pe­ti­tion will be cru­cial to bring­ing home the ti­tle.

‘‘You have to be re­ally fierce, it’s re­ally in­tense,’’ Zoe says.

‘‘It’s hard to play, both phys­i­cally and men­tally. You have to have a lot of trust in your team-mates and be able to rely on each other.’’

Photo: ALASTAIR LYNN

Brooke Stevens and Zoe Jarvis are ex­cited to rep­re­sent New Zealand at the 2015 Un­der­wa­ter Hockey World Age Group Cham­pi­onships.

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