Feilding paintballers lose world cup, go pro
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.
The Expendables in action in Sydney, Australia.