Top-level canoe polo comes to town

Liam Brunton, of Eastern, surveys his options with the ball as Central’s Harry Dickens comes over...
Liam Brunton, of Eastern, surveys his options with the ball as Central’s Harry Dickens comes over to defend him in the under-21 section of the inter-regional canoe polo championships at Moana Pool yesterday. Photo: Linda Robertson
You could be forgiven for not being a canoe polo expert in Dunedin, but this weekend is a perfect opportunity to become clued up.

The game’s top level is at Moana Pool for the first time, with the inter-regionals beginning yesterday and running until Sunday.

Bringing together the country’s five regions — Southern, Mainland, Central, Eastern and Northern — the biennial event is a chance to see some of New Zealand’s best in action.

A five-on-five game, the sport sees teams attempt to get a ball in a goal 2m in the air, while paddling around in canoes.

Southern senior men’s player and women’s coach Luke Anderson described it as a combination of several sports amounting to basketball on water.

"It’s a bit like basketball really," he said.

"I think basketball is the closest sport you can strike in terms of tactics and the way the sport’s played, with a bit of water polo and kayaking thrown in obviously."

Games consisted of 10-minute halves and teams usually played two to three in a game.

Anderson said they were intense and compared the format to rugby sevens.

There were various components to being good at the sport ranging from canoe ability, to ball skills and team tactics.

However, balance was something Southern senior women’s player and under-21s coach Lucia Stettner thought was most important.

"When I started playing I had horrible balance," she said.

"That was something that made it a lot harder to stay upright and do things — that would be the main [thing to be good at], I think."

The tournament had under-18, under-21, senior and veterans grades for both men and women.

It represented a step up for Southern, which did not have a strong competition to play in locally.

That was in comparison to Central, which was usually the team to beat, while Eastern did well in the age-groups before its players left for university.

While the Dunedin scene was not strong, there were some good young players from Alexandra with slalom backgrounds, while Invercargill also supplied players.

At 22 years old, Stettner — who is a Dunedin local — was the oldest Southern player.

That saw many of the senior women’s players also playing in the under-21 team.

However, despite the youth, the team had been developing well and was hopeful for a successful weekend.

That was made more likely with Central and Mainland having had players away representing New Zealand at the World Games.

Stettner said the team had training camps both in Invercargill and at Ross Creek and it had become more competitive since it had made the aim of being competitive at inter-regionals.

She felt it was now key to keep exposing the sport to get more people involved.

Meanwhile the men would likely struggle more, as the national team players were available to the other teams.

However, it was hoping to claim some wins.

Finals day was Sunday, with the senior women’s scheduled for 3.15pm and the senior men’s  at 3.45pm.


Inter regional champs
Moana Pool

Today from 6.10am until 9.45pm

• Tomorrow from 6.10am until 4.15pm

• Senior women’s final 3.15pm, senior men’s final 3.45pm

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