Canoe polo: Bay trio sacrifice for world medals

By Shane Hurndell

Any sportsperson with a hint of potential receives this piece of advice often ... if you're prepared to make the sacrifices the rewards will come.

In the case of a Hawke's Bay canoe polo trio, Kate Horrocks, Liam Barensden and Matt Keong, the sacrifices have been huge in their quest for medals at the September world championships in Poznan, Poland.

Horrocks, 18, has delayed her first year of a two-year chef's course at EIT until next year.

"We'll be away for a month at the worlds and it's too big a chunk out of my course," Horrocks explained.

"I'm not complaining though ... being selected for a world championship for the first time is the highlight of my eight years in the sport. It's unbelievable ... it's taking a while to sink in."

Wind the clock back to Saturday and the wet and miserable weather was far from user friendly for Hawke's Bay rugby and soccer players. But it didn't stop this trio from completing an outdoor training session on Pandora Pond as part of their training schedule.

In Horrock's case the session was a week after she had her tonsils out. Then there's the fundraising.

They each have to contribute $8,000 towards the cost of their trip. Add in an extra $2000 involved with attending five training camps before the departure and some new equipment it's well over $10,000 each.

Defensive player Horrocks understands there will be at least 10 teams in the under-21 women's grade she will be playing in.

"We'll be aiming for a medal. It's a big sacrifice to make and a long way to go not to," she said.

Her previous highlight before the world championship selection was helping the New Zealand under-21 team win gold at last year's Oceania championships in Palmerston North where the side also finished third in the open women's grade. Horrocks also played for the Otaki-based Generation Y team which finished fourth in the national league which ended last month.

Last year Horrocks was a member of the Taradale High School open girls' team which won the national secondary schools title. She is full of praise for the work Hawke's Bay coaches Kris Worledge and Phil Parry as well as national coach Peter Housioux of Otaki have put into her.

Goalies Keong, 20, and Barensden, 18, who will be in the New Zealand under-21 men's team will also be playing at world championship level for the first time. They are expecting at least 20 teams in their grade.

Their team also won the grade at last year's Oceania championships. Barensden started playing at Dannevirke's Ruahine club seven years ago.

The EIT Sport and Recreation course student was a member of the 2011 Napier Boys' High School team open boys team which also won a national secondary schools title. Barensden and Keong were members of a youthful Hawke's Bay Hurricanes side which finished fifth in the open men's division of the national league which for the first time this year involved an Australian team.

With his father Wim, who has coached him through the secondary school ranks, managing the Kiwi men's squad in Poland and his Palmerston North-based brother Anthony a member of the New Zealand men's team Barensden shouldn't get homesick in Poland.

In addition to playing goalie Keong also plays as a backline offensive player. The Havelock North High School product who is now a footwear specialist for Rebel Sport has been playing for nine years.

Keong played in the 2009 Oceania Championships as well as last year's and at both champs represented his country at under-21 and senior B level. He pointed out the coaching he has received from John Graham as well as Wellington-based former Hawke's Bay player Richard Morrison has been a key factor in his national selections.

"Hopefully some good form in Poland will help me on the way to New Zealand senior selection in the future," added Keong who trains every day.

While Horrocks, Keong and Barensden are Hawke's Bay-based, another six players who started their canoe polo careers in Hawke's Bay have also been selected for Kiwi teams competing in several lead-up tournaments in Europe before the September worlds.

The full Hawke's Bay contingent by origin in the New Zealand World Championship teams: New Zealand Men: Jed Graham (vice captain).

New Zealand Women: Emma Matheson (vice captain), Emma Hubbard. New Zealand Under-21 Men: Mitch Graham (captain), Matt Keong, Connor Sellwood, Liam Barensden. New Zealand Under-21 Women: Jordan Pearse, Kate Horrocks.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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