New Zealand inline hockey captain Lewis Taiapa was full of praise for the Levin organisers of the national competition held in town last week - he just wishes more players were there.

Taiapa said while the Levin Thunder club and president Arden Phillips had done an amazing job at hosting the event attended by more than 650 players, he thought there should have been even more.

The 34-year-old was passionate about his chosen sport and believed there was room to grow the game nationally.

Taiapa, whose Capital Penguins team made history with their sixth straight NZ men's title beating Mt Wellington in the final last week, said for the game to continue to grow in New Zealand it would need to start at the grass roots with domestic leagues.

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Arden Phillips
Arden Phillips

The challenge was to keep young players involved in the sport and foster regular competition, he said.

Taiapa came from a family in Wainuiomata where inline hockey ruled supreme, and siblings Kylie, Leigh, Jensen and Hayden had all represented New Zealand.

Taiapa said New Zealand did well to be competitive at World Championship events against second-tier nations, despite not having regular competition against the likes of USA, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Canada.

There were two world series competitions, one run by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the other by a European roller sports association (FIRS). He said the former attracted the best players in the world.

But the IIHF didn't host a world championship this season and New Zealand was poorer for it, he said.

The medals at the New Zealand Inline Hockey competition featured the town clock and Tararua ranges.
The medals at the New Zealand Inline Hockey competition featured the town clock and Tararua ranges.

"The experience we gain from going to these world tournaments is incredible," he said.

The overseas influence filtered down to all grades, he said. That was evident a few years ago when Canadian captain Dave Hammond and USA player Pat Lee spent time in New Zealand coaching.

Their input and coaching had a massive effect on the way the game was played in this country, he said, holding training camps and coaching coaches in a year-long coaching stint.

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"They changed the game here," he said.

"The problem here is our isolation. We are only as good as the best players here and the kids look up to the best players to see how they should be playing."

Amber Metcalfe from Levin Thunder.
Amber Metcalfe from Levin Thunder.

Host club Levin Thunder was jubilant at recording their first New Zealand title when their junior women's team beat Mt Wellington Panthers 5-4 in a thrilling final, capped off with Amelia Hunt being named the tournament's Most Valuable goalie.

Levin Thunder was the only club in Levin now. The town was once home to Levin Jackals and Levin Canucks years ago though, clubs that had won national titles.

Meanwhile, Phillips said they were praised for their live streaming of the tournament, where parents and grandparents of the players could watch the games from home.

He said food trucks were kept busy and there were always large crowds at the matches. He had medals that were specially designed for the tournament too.