Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Waterpolo: 'Aussie' Kayes lands Rio place

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Joe Kayes will represent Australia at the Rio Olympics. Photo / John Borren
Joe Kayes will represent Australia at the Rio Olympics. Photo / John Borren

An Olympic dream that began as a youngster growing up in Papamoa will soon become a reality for water polo star Joe Kayes.

But it is the green and yellow of Australia rather than a silver fern that he will wear at the Rio Olympics.

There is only one Oceania spot available for water polo qualification and New Zealand has never beaten Australia to it.

Kayes, 25, spent five years playing in Hungary in the world's strongest professional water polo league.

He considered applying for citizenship there to chase his Olympic dream but the lifestyle opportunities in Australia and being near his close-knit family won out in the end.

The past two years he has been a dominant player in the Australian league and has been training with the Aussie Sharks squad.

Kayes' clearance from the sport's governing body FINA came through this week allowing the Australian selectors to grab the dynamic centre forward who represented the New Zealand senior men's team in 2008 while still at Mount Maunganui College.

Kayes' father Paul, who set up Tauranga Water Polo Club in 2002 and has two other children, Danny and Julia, who represented New Zealand, is obviously proud of what his son has achieved.

"The current context is the New Zealand men are not in the Olympics and we struggle to field a New Zealand men's team at all because of cost issues. So for Joe there was no option really," Paul said.

"There are photos of Joe playing water polo as a chubby 11-year-old at the polytechnic pool so it has been a fantastic journey.

"As a family we have loved every minute of it, with all three of the kids making New Zealand teams.

"Joe is the one who has chosen to go overseas and pursue that as a sporting career and I am absolutely pleased, proud of all of the family's efforts but also all of the club's efforts over the years.

"There have been multiple positive influences and Joe has certainly benefited from that."

Paul has just finished a four-year stint on the New Zealand Water Polo Association's board.

"All of New Zealand Water Polo recognises that the New Zealand men have never made the Olympics before and it is just unlikely in the foreseeable future," he said.

"Aussie water polo is in a really fortunate position of receiving federal money through Sport Australia and New Zealand water polo doesn't. In a nutshell it is the old story that dollars count.

"There are so many minor sports in New Zealand that struggle for lack of funding. Promising athletes drop out within the New Zealand context across dozens of minor sports where with a small amount of funding it could be a very different story.

"It is a shame and is really a big miss by Sport New Zealand.

"If they properly applied some funds into some of these other sports then given time I think there would be a revelation over what we achieved."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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