There is something special about the Commonwealth Games that New Zealanders love.

Older generations have fond memories of Christchurch in 1974 and Auckland in 1990 while fans of all ages love seeing Kiwi athletes winning medals.

Last night the 21st version of the Games began on Australia's Gold Coast with the sporting action under way today.

In this fast-moving age where tradition is often ignored, it is heartening to know the spirit of the Commonwealth Games lives on in the hearts of all our athletes.


Western Bay athletes are involved across a wide cross-section of sports.

Homegrown Tauranga players Sam Charlton, Rose Keddell, Frances Davies and Amy Robinson are in the Black Sticks women's hockey team.

On form, they are strong medal prospects. What colour may well come down to a referee's call or bounce of the ball — the competition is so even. Erasing the bitter disappointment of how they lost to England in the semifinal four years ago in Glasgow will be a major goal for the Black Sticks.

Sevens rugby has a strong foothold in the Western Bay with the men's and women's teams based at the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance based at Blake Park. All the contracted players now live in Mount Maunganui with Bay of Plenty represented by men's players Scott Curry, Regan Ware and Joe Webber with Michaela Blythe and Kelly Brazier two of the best women's players.

Usually, gold medals would be the goal for both teams. This is the case with the women coached by Rotorua's Allan Bunting likely to meet Australia in the final.

But the inconsistency of the men's team so far in the 2018 World Series means even contesting the minor medals is no certainty. Hot favourites Fiji, South Africa, England, Australia, Kenya and Samoa are all capable of making the final.

Beach volleyball makes its first appearance at a Commonwealth Games. Tauranga brothers Sam and Ben O'Dea are definite gold medal prospects in the men's competition while women's pairing of Mount Maunganui resident Kelsie Wills and Hamilton's Shaunna Polley have Australia and Canada as main rivals for gold.

On the track, New Zealand's fastest man Joseph Millar has plenty to prove in the 200m after missing initial selection. If he can peak at the right time and get his mental focus right he may surprise down the back straight on finals day.


Wrestling does not get the attention of other sports but will benefit from the exposure to come. Tayla Ford won bronze at the 2014 Glasgow Games and is favoured to medal again in the 62kg Freestyle while former judo high performer Ana Moceyawa is an outside chance to medal in the 57kg Freestyle.

Tauranga-based Cook Island swimmer Tem Strickland, 18, has made the Games the hard way without funding or training camps. He does not even have any training partners to help push him in the daily grind of endless laps of the Omanu Club pool.

But gaining international experience and shaving time off his personal best times will be a positive outcome for him.

Full coverage of the Games is available free to air on TVNZ right through to the closing ceremony on Sunday, April 15.