Feild­ing paint­ballers lose world cup, go pro

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Conversations - SAM KILMIS­TER

Feild­ing-based paint­ball team The Ex­pend­ables will advance to the sport’s pro­fes­sional di­vi­sion next sea­son, de­spite los­ing the paint­ball world cup.

The Manawatu¯ team placed sixth last week at the in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment in Paris af­ter go­ing in as hot favourites to be the first south­ern hemi­sphere team to take gold.

The team won all three pre­vi­ous Euro­pean tour­na­ments this year. It’s a feat that has them rated num­ber one in the world and lifts them to the NXL Europe Pro Di­vi­sion next year – the sport’s high­est com­pe­ti­tion.

The team was knocked out in over­time dur­ing the quar­ter fi­nal against Slo­vakia-based RMG Sym­phony, who had three United States pro play­ers.

The score was locked up 2-2 when the full-time siren sounded, but a se­ries of un­char­ac­ter­is­tic er­rors re­sulted in the match be­ing handed to the Slo­vakians, cap­tain David Hop­kins said.

It didn’t help that one of Hop­kins’ team mates accidentally shot him in the back of the head.

Hop­kins was dis­ap­pointed his team couldn’t fin­ish the dream sea­son by go­ing un­de­feated, but he was proud to have topped the semi-pro di­vi­sion.

‘‘It would have been the per­fect fin­ish, but we were car­ry­ing a cou­ple of in­juries and had a cou­ple of key play­ers out,’’ he said.

The Ex­pend­ables’ pro­mo­tion has seen a rise in in­ter­est from spon­sors - three com­pa­nies from Rus­sian and Amer­ica have com­mit­ted to fund­ing paint­balls, gear and guns.

The team op­er­ated on very lim­ited spon­sor­ship this year and was largely self-funded. Their travel bill alone was more than $100,000.

But it was money well spent this year the team brought home the Mediter­ranean Cup, Cam­paign Cup and Euro­pean Masters.

It’s a recog­ni­tion of a long year, Hop­kins said. Since Fe­bru­ary, they’ve com­peted in France, Ger­many and Eng­land.

Hop­kins be­lieved they would be com­pet­i­tive in the top grade. Three pro teams had in­vited them to train­ing ses­sions be­fore the world cup.

‘‘That’s a big deal,’’ Hop­kins said. ‘‘They were not go­ing to ask teams they’d roll over.’’

While he hoped his small­town team could put the pro teams through their paces next sea­son, Hop­kins re­mained a re­al­ist.

He was look­ing for land to buy or lease so his team could train ev­ery­day.

PHOTO: DAVID HOP­KINS/SUP­PLIED

The Ex­pend­ables in ac­tion in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia.

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