Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Underwater hockey: Tauranga's impressive talent pool

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Georgia Coughlan (left) and Kirsty Burrows have been selected in the NZ Under-22 national team to compete in the Transtasman Championships in Hobart.
Georgia Coughlan (left) and Kirsty Burrows have been selected in the NZ Under-22 national team to compete in the Transtasman Championships in Hobart.

The high proportion of Tauranga players making New Zealand teams is testimony to how strong the sport of underwater hockey is in the region.

Georgia Coughlan, Kirsty Burrows, Courtney Coughlan (NZ Under-22), Jerusha Keightley, Jordan Ross, Emma Byrom and Guy Roberts (NZ Under-18) have all been selected to take on Australia in the Age Group Transtasman Competition to be held in Hobart in July.

It will be a notable occasion for the Coughlan sisters, who have never played in the same team together.

"I was quite excited because I knew my sister was trialling for the team so I thought I would trial as well with her to see if I could get in," Georgia said.

Georgia, 17, is the youngest selected in the under-22 team.

She says she will draw on the experience she gained in the New Zealand Under-19 side that won silver at last year's World Cup held in Spain, where six Tauranga Underwater Hockey club members were part of the men's and women's under-19 teams.

"It was crazy. One of the biggest things was how I could deal with the pressure of everything because it was quite nerve wracking playing all the games over there.

"I think it is a good thing going into an older age grade with having a little bit of experience and just knowing how to deal with things within yourself."

New Zealand is regarded internationally as a powerhouse of underwater hockey.

Georgia, a Tauranga Girls' College Year 12 student, says it is all starts with competitive school grades.

"We get brought into it from Year 9 and we even have intermediate leagues where we are getting people into it. There are just so many kids that play it at school level that it is just so much more competitive than other places.

"We also have really good coaches in New Zealand as well.

"Here in Tauranga Letitia Jackson, who is the NZ Under-18 coach, has coached Courtney and me right through college years and Kirsty Burrows as well as Jerusha Keightley and Jordan Ross who also go to Tauranga Girls'.

"She has been a fantastic coach and has taught us everything we know and made sure we have all the right skills. She is always pushing us and definitely deserves some recognition.

"Emma Byrom who goes to Bethlehem College also made the under-18 New Zealand team, which is really cool because she doesn't even have a school team. It is really exciting for her."

Georgia has been pleasantly surprised by the surge in popularity of underwater hockey.

"I am amazed just in the last few years at how popular the sport has become. A while ago I would say I play underwater hockey and people would be like 'what's that?'."

"But more and more often now when I say I play underwater hockey they know what it is which is fantastic."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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