Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Underwater hockey: Roberts latest to gain NZ selection

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Guy Roberts has been picked for the New Zealand  Under-18 underwater hockey team. Photo / George Novak
Guy Roberts has been picked for the New Zealand Under-18 underwater hockey team. Photo / George Novak

Underwater hockey continues to gain popularity in the Western Bay with the numbers attending Sunday training at Baywave Aquatic Centre testimony to that.

Last year Tauranga Underwater Hockey Club members Georgia Coughlan, Megan Burrows, Kirsty Burrows, Jordan Ross and Ben Richards made New Zealand under-19 teams at the World Age Group Championships held in Spain, with the women winning silver and the men gold.

Guy Roberts, 16, is the latest to get the call up to wear the silver fern.

The Tauranga Boys' College Year 12 student was named in the New Zealand Under-18 side to compete against Australia at the Age Group Transtasman Competition in Hobart in July.

His selection follows some outstanding form representing the Mid-Northern region (Bay of Plenty and Waikato) and at three intense training camps.

"I started underwater hockey when I was in Year 8 and I never expected to get into the New Zealand team or anything," Roberts said.

"I thought it was really cool and I went straight into the senior team at Tauranga Boys' when I was in Year 9 and from there it just escalated."

Roberts said underwater hockey suited anyone who loved swimming.

"If you can swim it is definitely a sport for you. It is an easy sport to get into. You just need to know how to use a pair of fins. If you like being underwater and you can touch the bottom of the pool then I suggest you start the sport."

The sport began in England in 1954. Teams have 10 players with any six underwater at any time. The players have a small stick they use to project the puck into the opponent's goal and there is little physical contact in theory.

"There are normally four positions of two forwards, a centre, two wings and goalie. For my school team I play centre and for New Zealand Under-18s I am playing forward," Roberts said.

"I have to be quite fast and sprinting is one of the main things I practise in the pool. Being a forward I normally have to be in front of the puck at all times and receive it off my wings to score goals."

Roberts said the sport had grown rapidly in the short time he had been involved.

"When I was Year 9 our school didn't have a junior team. This year I am captaining the Tauranga Boys' senior team and we practise with the juniors sometimes. To see how many juniors there are now is just unbelievable. There is at least three teams worth of juniors, which I am really proud about.

"Tauranga Girls' College have a pretty strong team too."

Details: Tauranga Underwater Hockey Club Facebook page. Training every Sunday from 5pm at Baywave Aquatic Centre.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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