Playing an Aussie is always tough for a Kiwi no matter what the code is.
So imagine how Hawke's Bay squash player Winona-Jo Joyce must have felt in the countdown to her Oceania under-17 final in Brisbane on Sunday night. The third seed was taking on the top-seeded Aussie McKenzie Sleep in her country and in temperatures which reached 43 degrees Celsius.
"They were the hottest conditions I've ever played in. Fortunately all the hard work I put in beforehand paid off and I was able to take control for most of the game and finish it in a tad over 30 minutes," Joyce said as she reflected on her 3-1 victory.
Superb and tight length was the key to Joyce's success. This was the 16-year-old A2 grader's first taste of Oceania title glory, the first Oceania title to be won by a Havelock North club player and the second to be won by a Hawke's Bay junior after Hastings Rhiarne Taiapa won the same title in Auckland last year.
"It was a pretty good feeling to beat McKenzie as it was the first time I've played her," Joyce said.
Her title was one of seven won by Kiwi players in 10 different age groups at the PCYC Centre. It was her third attempt at an Oceania title.
Last year she recorded a top-eight finish in the under-19 age group and in 2016 she was unplaced in the under-15 age group. Like the rest of the Kiwi contingent Joyce can't believe the amount of water they are drinking each day.
"I'm staying with the rest of the New Zealand team and we're regularly going to the supermarket to get 10 1.5 litre containers of water at a time."
Joyce, who is ranked among the top four Kiwis on the under-17 rankings, proved Sunday's win was no fluke when she beat Sleep 3-1 during Monday's first session of the transtasman test series to help the Kiwis establish a 10-8 lead. The second session was scheduled to be completed last night after Hawke's Bay Today went to press and Joyce was to take on Aussie Alex Haydon who finished second in the under-19 age group during the Oceania champs.
Haydon was also a member of the Aussie team at last year's under-19 world championships in Tauranga.
"Alex is a very technically correct player and a very patient one. She will give me a good gauge as to where I'm at," Joyce said.
"I'm hoping the wins I've had so far over here will boost my chances of making the six-strong New Zealand team for the under-19 individual world championships in India later this year and the under-19 world teams champs next year," Joyce said.
What makes the Tecnifibre-Focus Health Physiotherapy Limited Havelock North-sponsored Joyce's wins in Aussie more significant is the fact she took on a new coach, Hawke's Bay A grader Cameron Jamieson, two months ago.
"Cameron is a left hander like me so I can relate to him," Joyce said.
Following her two wins against Sleep, Joyce had her seeding for the Australian Junior Open which starts on the Gold Coast tomorrow and continues until Sunday improved from fifth to first.
"We've been keeping an eye on the weather forecasts and it looks like it is going to be hotter on the Gold Coast than it has been here in Brisbane," Joyce said.
When the Hastings Girls' High School Year 13 student returns from Aussie she will have a couple of days to recover before attending a New Zealand junior elite squad training camps in Auckland on January 27 and 28.
Joyce's Havelock North clubmate, B1 grader Jena Gregory, finished second in the under-15 age group at the Oceania Champs and had a 3-1 loss during the first session of the transtasman test.