Teen volleyballers going the distance

By Cameron Leslie

Whangarei's Shane Witehira and Kane Turketo are two volleyballers who are going places.

The teenagers have already started their climb to the top after claiming bronze in the under-17 category at beach volleyball's Oceania Zone tournament in Tahiti last month. A performance which has attracted the attention of top New Zealand selectors, and have since been named in a development team for the Youth Olympics next year.

There's only one problem, though. Northlanders tend to not respect beach volleyball like they do a sport like rugby.

"Because it's not promoted as a very big sport up here it's hard to go around, be recognised and have a proper reputation for the sport," said Turketo.

"It's not recognised up here like it is in Mount Maunganui or Auckland, where it's pretty big and they have plenty of sponsorship."

Turketo, 16, means business when he talks of sponsorship, as he aims to make volleyball a career choice rather than a teenage time-filler.

Although, achieving that goal means a collective agreement and partnership with his playing partner Witehira.

"It's different to a single sport when you have your partner beside you, it's good to have that partner bondship," Turketo said.

Going to the beach every day to play and train appeals to Turketo and Witehira, 16, who admits the cliches about the eye candy associated with volleyball are true.

"That's what I tell my mates [that Witehira plays to check out the girls]," laughs Witehira. "But, it's just the buzz you get when you're playing and there are a lot of people watching."

The Year 12 student said their partnership had begun strongly after Turketo moved to Tikipunga High School and an outdoor sand volleyball court was built at their school a few years ago.

"He [Turketo] came to school here and his father, Mr Turketo, asked if I wanted to be Kane's partner and now we've been going overseas together," Witehira said.

"We're a new couple, everyone else is old [in partnership years]. They've [other beach partnerships] been growing up together where we've been slapped together.

"Since last year, we ended up doing the national tournaments and gained some experience, and now we're being looked at more [by New Zealand selectors]."

Next up for the talented duo is a competition in Mount Maunganui this weekend, followed by the national secondary school championships in Mount Maunganui again.

If anyone would like to make a contribution to these charismatic young volleyballers, contact the Northern Advocate at sports@northernadvocate.co.nz

- Northern Advocate

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