Seventeen teams have hit the water in Hawke’s Bay’s debut hosting of an international canoe polo competition.
Hastings boasts the only purpose-built canoe polo venue in the Southern Hemisphere at Mitre 10 Regional Sports Park.
The venue - which features four canoe polo courts - opened in 2020 and is fast becoming the envy of Oceania.
The 2023 Oceania Canoe Polo Championships began on Thursday and will run until Sunday at the outdoor venue, with 17 New Zealand and Australian representative teams taking part, featuring plenty of Hawke’s Bay players.
Canoe Polo Hawke’s Bay chair Kelly Walters said it was a huge occasion.
“We have been talking about this venue for 15 years so when we opened in 2020 it was pretty significant, and to finally get an international event here is pretty cool,” she said.
The representative teams taking part this week include men’s and women’s teams across U18, U21, Senior, Masters (over-35s), and Veterans (over-45s) divisions. The Julian Carter Cup is up for grabs for the winning nation.
The finals will be held on Sunday from about noon to 3pm and the event is free and open to the public.
Walters said the feedback from the Kiwi and Aussie players was fantastic.
“I’ve had a lot of people come and say to me the opening ceremony was fantastic with the local iwi that came and welcomed our visitors on to the venue.
“We are seeing amazing games, and they are loving the fact that while the Aussies haven’t had any international canoe polo for the last four years, they are turning up and playing some really good canoe polo. They are loving it.”
She said hosting such a high-calibre event would hopefully result in more people getting into the sport.
“We are hoping it will spark lots of interest, especially with young ones that get to see the sport, and at such a high level.”
Walters said the Canoe Polo Hawke’s Bay club has teams as young as Year 5, and the club currently has about 750 members across all age groups.
Some of the teams competing this week will be eyeing the 2024 Canoe Polo World Championships in China to be held next October.
Gary Hamilton-Irvine is a Hawke’s Bay-based reporter who covers a range of news topics including business, councils, breaking news and cyclone recovery. He formerly worked at News Corp Australia.