The gap across the Tasman has narrowed lately for two young promising Northland volleyballers.
Tikipunga High School students Kane Turketo and Shane Witehira had barely returned from a two-week stint in Melbourne, playing for the New Zealand Under 17 Volleyball team, when they were asked to lead a haka and officiate at games for a team of adult Australians being hosted by their school.
The 11 Australian state and national men's champions were there as part of a five-test tour that included games in Hamilton, Auckland, Whangarei and Kerikeri.
They stayed in the school auditorium for three nights, along with members of the New Zealand men's team, also being hosted by Tikipunga.
Jason Woods, head of sport at Tikipunga High School and the coaching power behind the Tikipunga duo, says it was a chance for the two volleyball prodigies to not only observe top adult competition, but also to proudly showcase their own Maori culture: "The teams were entertained by our school kapa haka group while they enjoyed a hangi.
The two boys played a big part in hosting the visit."
Volleyball enjoys high profile in the north, with the games at Kamo High School drawing big crowds both nights.
The Kiwis won the test 3-2, with all games being close.
With the indoor season coming to a close, Kane and Shane have begun focusing once again on beach volleyball, both play for the New Zealand Under 17 beach team as well as for the New Zealand Under 17 (court) volleyball team.
They are poised in both for more international competition but which discipline takes priority is still a moot point.
Right now, they are keeping one foot on the court and the other on the sand.