The carrot has been dangled in front of Hawke's Bay canoe polo player Ben Hulena.

If Hulena performs well in this weekend's annual Art Deco tournament in Hastings he should make the cut for the New Zealand under-21 men's team for the September world championships in Rome. This Kiwi team will be announced after the 54-team event at Canoe Polo Hawke's Bay's new Mitre 10 Park complex and Hurricanes A1 team member Hulena is one of several Hawke's Bay players in contention.

"I would like to think I've got a decent chance," guard Hulena said.

A 19-year-old apprentice builder who has been playing canoe polo for seven years, Hulena was in the silver-medal-winning New Zealand under-21 men's B team at last year's Oceania Championships in Sydney. He ranked that tournament as the highlight of his time in the sport.


Like so many other Hawke's Bay teens who have worn the silver fern, former Havelock North High School student Hulena is adamant the strong secondary schools competition in the Bay is a major contributing factor to the high humber of Bay players who have reached international status.

As a recent addition to the Hurricanes A1 team, which is Hawke's Bay's top representative men's side, Hulena pointed out the fact the bulk of the side have been together for the past couple of years is working in the side's favour.

"We're hoping for a spot in the Open A grade final this weekend."

Hulena is in canoe polo for the long haul and believed the number of Hawke's Bay players who gain national honours will continue to increase because of the new complex in the Bay.

"We've not only got four new courts to train and play in, we've also got access to the EIT Institute of Sport & Health with all its athlete development services."

Karamu High School Year 12 student Hannah Hunt, 16, will be one of the busiest players this weekend. She will play for Hurrikets A in the Women's A division and Karamu High School in the Women's B division.

"I could end up playing seven or eight games each day," defender Hunt said.

"Our Hurrikets A team is a young side which will benefit from the experience gained up at that level. Our Karamu side is hoping for a top three finish," Hunt explained.


She has been playing canoe polo for six years and along with fellow Bay player Ashlee Greaves has been named as a non-travelling reserve for the New Zealand under-21 women's team for Rome. Because the world championships are played every two years Hunt will be eligible for another two world champs in this age group.

She considers playing for the New Zealand under-18 A girls team at last year's Oceania Championships in Sydney as the highlight of her time in the code to date.

"We played in the women's grade over there. If we had played in our grade we would have won it," Hunt recalled.

Two years ago she was a member of her school's junior team, which won a national title. This year her school side will aim for the national senior title.

In addition to her playing commitments, Hunt also coaches a Hawke's Bay junior development team which will play in a National League tournament in Christchurch next month.

While Hawke's Bay, which already boasts 700 of the 2200 registered canoe polo players nationwide, have contributed numerous national representatives over the years, Hunt predicted these numbers will increase in future years because of the region's new complex.

"It will be good to train at facilities like this and having four courts of games going at the same time this weekend ... it will be such a cool atmosphere."

Canoe Polo Hawke's Bay chairwoman Kelly Hepburn said the new complex has contributed to the record number of entries for the tournament.

Visiting teams from Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North will provide hot competition for Hawke's Bay's rep teams. Several Hawke's Bay school and social teams will also be in action.

Hepburn said the New Zealand under-21 women's team for Rome was named a fortnight ago and four former Hawke's Bay reps - Hayley Cameron, Greer Edilson, Casey Hales and Terri Morrison - were selected. They will be playing for a National Selection team in the Women's A grade this weekend.

In addition to the Open A and Women's A grades this weekend there will also be Open B and Open C grades and a Women's B grade.

An opening ceremony for the new complex will be held from 6pm today.