If you accused Hawke's Bay canoe polo player Hayley Austin of making more than waves in the pool you would be spot on.

The 14-year-old Karamu High School Year 10 student is making history as the youngest player to be selected in a New Zealand under-18 A team for the Oceania championships.

"It's a massive honour at this age. It was a surprise to be accepted as it has happened one or two years earlier than I expected. Other people have been surprised by the selection too," Austin said.

She is one of five Hawke's Bay players in the Paddle Ferns team of seven. The others are Hannah Hunt, Millie Hannam, Hannah McKinnon and Ashlee Greaves. Captain Mia Thomas from Wairarapa College and Palmerston North Girls' High School's Jessica Azevedo-Leader complete the squad.

Advertisement

A canoe polo player for six years, the Austins Reals Estate-sponsored Austin ("a huge thanks to Mum [Wendy] and Dad [Darren]," she said) was quick to reply when quizzed about the keys to her rapid rise in the code:

"Plenty of training, a good mindset and I'm always challenging myself. I keep improving my best and I like to follow Dad's advice ... shoot for the moon and if I don't make it I'll land in the stars."

That saying was made famous by All Black legend Michael Jones during motivational talks around the country following the end of his playing career before the turn of the century.

The attacker and charger has the potential to play in the under-18 age group at the Oceania championships on three occasions as the champs are staged every two years.

This month's champs will be held in Sydney from April 24-27 following the Aussie nationals from April 19-21 which will see the Kiwi teams take on Aussie state teams.

"There were some intense selection camps before our team was named with 20 players fighting for the seven spots," Austin recalled.

This weekend Austin, Hunt, Hannam, McKinnon and Greaves will be playing for the Hawke's Bay B women's team at the Auckland-hosted second of three rounds in the National League. Points are accumulated over the three rounds to decide the national title winners and last year Hawke's Bay B won their grade.

Austin said the side made the ideal start to their title defence when they won the Christchurch-hosted first round with a 9-0 win against Palmerston North in the final. The Hawke's Bay team arrived in Christchurch on the same day as mosque terrorist attacks.

Round three will be staged in Wellington from May 17 to 19.

"At the Oceania championships we will be up against our under-21 teams and open grade teams as well as teams in those grades from other countries in the Oceania region. At the 2017 Oceania champs in Palmerston North New Zealand won the under-18 title and that will be the aim again," Austin said.

Next year Austin will have a crack at making the New Zealand under-21 team for the world championships in France.

"There is a lot more competition for the under-21 team. You never know who will be trialling but you are always hopeful. If I miss out I know there will be plenty more chances to make that team. As I said it was a big honour to make the under-18s."

Austin is grateful for the work former Hawke's Bay Canoe Polo Club coaches Michelle and Barry Warren put into her early in her career.

"They helped me build the basics with good structures. I appreciate them very much. Kase was a big influence too," she said referring to her Aussie-based brother who played for Queensland as well as a top club in Palmerston North after representing New Zealand at taekwondo.

In addition to her Hawke's Bay B and New Zealand under-18 A team commitments, Austin, also plays for her Karamu High School senior girls team.

"We didn't do too well at nationals this year but we are a young team which is building for next year," Austin explained.

Karamu High School's most famous sporting product, Olympian and multiple world champion kayaker Aimee Fisher, started in canoe polo before making the switch to kayaking. So the question had to be put to Austin.

Does she intend to follow a similar journey to Fisher?

"I'll see how it goes. At the moment I'm pretty focused on my canoe polo. I did try canoe slalom and while it was fun it conflicted with my canoe polo."

It's obvious the articulate Austin has maturity beyond her years and like Fisher at the same age has plenty of potential. The chances of her being around the international canoe polo scene for the next decade at least are high.