A DOMINANT New Zealand team won a world underwater hockey title last week and an Eastern Bay contingent was at the heart of the triumph.
The team won the under-19 girls title at the Underwater Hockey Age Group Championships in Hobart. Kawerau’s Beauman Morgan was the assistant coach of the New Zealand team which included Trident High School’s Paris Henare and Oliva Daw and former Trident student Phoenix Henare.
New Zealand were ruthless in the double round robin, winning all 12 games. As prolific as they were on attack, they scored 116 goals, they were miserly at the defensive end, letting in just one goal.
“The only goal we let in was an own goal,” Morgan said.
“The tournament was a game of attrition and our girls were fitter than any other team there. These girls worked really hard.”
The signs of victory were evident pre-tournament for the team as they beat Great Britain and Argentinian under-23 teams in tune-up matches. “We cleaned them up and that was surprising. We wanted someone to challenge our girls and we didn’t concede goals in those games.”
Paris was the second highest goal scorer of the competition with 18 goals, two behind teammate Georgia Coughlan.
After breezing through the round robin matches, New Zealand beat Colombia 5-0 in the semi-final. But they saved their best for last, smashing Australia 8-0 in the final.
“The final was our best game of the tournament,” Morgan said.
“We played 14 games in 10 days, with two games a day and on one day we had three games. There was a lot on the girls themselves to keep their fitness up.
“Since January we held a fitness camp every month, but we gave the girls a programme to work on.”
Initially a squad of 33 players from across New Zealand was chosen but by the time the 12 for the Hobart event were chosen the only players left were from the northern and central North Island regions.
“When we did the selection, the first thing we looked at was team dynamics. They were quite a mature bunch and we only had four players under 18.”
Morgan said he hoped the sport would flourish in the coming years. He said he and his wife Raewyn had put a lot of time into coaching and the result at the world champs was very satisfying.
“Internationally the sport is doing really well. At Hobart there were teams that were semi-professional, such as Turkey who have all their needs paid for.
“It is still not a big sport in New Zealand, but it is growing in the main centres. It has grown in the central part that is being reflected in the school results.”