Every year the New Zealand Secondary Schools boys' and girls' water polo squads are dominated by Auckland students.
Western Bay athletes have regularly given the Aucklanders the biggest challenge to their places in the team, without a fraction of the competition they enjoy.
Bae Fountain and Justin Pickering made the boys' squad last year, fellow Mount Maunganui College student Malia Josephson made the girls' in 2015, and Cayne Dew from Aquinas College was in the boys' team in 2015.
But for the first time, four Tauranga water polo reps have all made the 2017 New Zealand schools teams. Fountain, Josef Schuler from Aquinas College and Mount Maunganui College's Grace Elisara and Julia Kayes will compete against Australia in the annual transtasman test series from December 18-21 in Canberra.
Remarkably, Fountain was selected for the NZ senior men's team this year aged 16 and also made the national schoolboys' volleyball team.
The annual three-test series began in 1982 with the New Zealand boys' winning nine times and the girls' seven times. The boys' win in 2015 was their first win in Australia.
Kellie Low has known the four students selected since they first dipped their toes in a pool as nippers.
The well-known Tauranga water polo entity, who has coached and managed Aquinas College, Tauranga and New Zealand teams over 15 years, is proud of how well they have battled against the odds to break through the Auckland domination.
"It is pretty safe to say that with water polo in Tauranga we punch well above our weight because the numbers in our catchment area are a lot smaller than Auckland," Low said.
"But the other amazing thing about these kids being selected at New Zealand secondary school level is that they do not get the same opportunities as the Auckland players on a week-to-week or term-to-term basis.
"The Aucklanders have a dogfight every week in their local competition. When Aquinas plays the Mount that is a hard game and the rest of the time it is not so much against the other schools. So for us to achieve at national level is amazing for the lack of intense game time that all of our players suffer from."
Tauranga Water Polo Club is looking to go to the next step in closing the gap on the Auckland schools by appointing their first paid coach in 2018.
The decision was agreed to at this week's club meeting, which Low says could mean getting an overseas coach.
"We are really excited as traditionally a Tauranga water polo coach is an older person like me that used to play many years ago. If we want to lift the bar, we need to start paying our coaches like the other associations do.
"We need our top players to stay here. They help make other people around them good too."