Producing top-class water polo players is nothing new for Mount Maunganui College.

Danny Kayes and his older brother Joseph, New Zealand's most successful professional player and a member of Australia's Olympic team for Rio, plus Rebecca Parkes, who in 2010 was the first Tauranga player to be selected for the NZ Schoolgirls team, set the standards high.

But this year's record of 11 Mount Maunganui College students making New Zealand water polo teams will take some beating.

Justin Pickering has been named in the New Zealand Secondary Schools team to take on their Australian counterparts in Sydney in December. Malia Josephson, Alisha Winstanley and Georgia Reardon-Nikara travelled to Hungary and Germany with the New Zealand Youth team, while Julia Kayes, Shinae Carrington, Bae Fountain, Grace Elisara, Jack Ellis, Caitlyn Lyttle and Ella Pollock have been selected in other New Zealand age group teams.


Teacher in charge of water polo, Kent Fenneman, says a key reason for so much success in one year is that the students are now pushing themselves to reach higher and higher standards together.

"Success breeds success. Individually they are all very competitive and very driven and passionate about their sport," he said.

"For all of these kids it has become their main sport and as they have grown and developed. They have come from swim and surf backgrounds, we have very good basketballers and volleyballers ... but they have chosen this as their number one sport. They work extremely hard to be able to compete at that top level. Most of them will be swim training five days a week at 6am, and training after school and twice a week for their club teams. Plus they have to fill in their New Zealand water polo commitments and that is a big ask as it involves travelling to Auckland on a fairly regular basis."

Year 12 student Pickering, 17, says he has been inspired by the greats of the sport who have gone before him at Mount Maunganui College.

"I have looked up to Joseph Kayes since I was young and he has been training with the Aussie Olympic team latterly as well, so that is definitely something to aspire to," Pickering said.

He says taking on Australia's best in December will be step-up in competition but a challenge he is looking forward to.

"At the end of the day I want to make it to world champs next August in Montenegro with the under-18s, and then see if I can get a scholarship to an American college for 2017."