It has taken 12 years but the Tauranga Water Polo Club has finally nabbed a major national title.

The under-14 boys' A team won gold at the Pan Pacific youth water polo festival held in Auckland during the school holidays, that attracted 130 teams from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and California.

The driving force behind the champion under-14 team is Kellie Low, who is also coach of the successful Aquinas College senior team.

"It is a big deal to win the age group title. For the boys, it was their first exposure to an international competition and it is the highest level of water polo they will get within New Zealand," Low said.


"It is pretty exciting to say you played Singapore and beat them."

Low says the even quality among the boys is what makes the group special.

"They are all really good water polo players. We didn't have one or two key players; we had a bunch of boys incredibly even in swimming ability, ball-handling ability and who work as a team. That was the point of difference with these boys."

Charlie Wood was named Most Valuable Player in the under-14 category at the tournament.

Low says Wood has only been playing water polo for two-and-a-half years.

"He hasn't done Flippa Ball or under-12s. Apart from playing intermediate water polo at Aquinas, he has only been playing club water polo for six months. He is centre forward, which is a key offensive position."

Wood scored three goals in the dramatic 9-4 win over Waitakere in the Pan Pacific final.

Tauranga led 6-3 at halftime before coming under sustained pressure from Waitakere, who closed to 4-6 going into the final quarter.

Low said the final period was tense and both teams had their opportunities, before Tauranga finished strongly to claim the title. Adam McKenzie (3), Hamish Low (2), and Josef Schuler were the other goal scorers.

Tauranga made good use of Auckland-based coach Joe Bensley, who joined up with the boys for the week and made a valuable contribution working alongside Low.

The success of the Tauranga under-14 boys and a sixth place finish for the under-14 B team, gives Low great confidence for future success.

"There are boys with New Zealand written all over their foreheads and the depth in the under-14 age group particularly, is huge. We have a large number of boys wanting to play water polo in this age group."