Paul Coll has his targets written down, short and long term, and admits he regularly casts an eye over them.

Next season near the top of the list is "Make world top 8". He's been there before, then dropped down to finish the just-completed international season at No 10.

Not to be sniffed at for sure, but just as eight is the number for NRL teams to aspire to be inside come season's end to make the playoffs, so it is a significant number for the world's best squash players.

The top eight get some protection in the first round draws of the major world circuit events. Sit No 9, as Coll has discovered, could mean a first-up clash with the world No 1. Not ideal.


The 26-year-old from Greymouth is the country's flagship men's player, just as world No 4 Joelle King is the key figure in the women's game for New Zealand.

The pair are the marquee players in this weekend's national championships at the Henderson courts in Auckland, starting tomorrow.

After that it's time off, in Coll's case a week home to see the family in Greymouth then a holiday in Thailand before pre-season training starts.

Half his year is spent in Amsterdam, where he lives, the other half travelling the globe. Not a bad life if you can get it, but you wouldn't call it easy.

Coll can reflect in on a "pretty good" season. He didn't lose to anyone ranked lower than himself, and has his eyes set on an upward trajectory.

Joelle King of New Zealand with gold in the Women's Singles, Paul Coll of New Zealand with silver in the Men's Singles. Photo / Photosport
Joelle King of New Zealand with gold in the Women's Singles, Paul Coll of New Zealand with silver in the Men's Singles. Photo / Photosport

The rankings, as they are for the women, are dominated by Egyptians.

The top three women are from Egypt; ditto for the top four men, headed by Mohammad Elshorbagy. They'll be a handful for Coll to get past, but he's confident it's not an insurmountable challenge.

"I think my game got better this season. I definitely think I have the potential [to reach No 1]. I believe I can," he said.


"For us New Zealanders, we learn the game a lot later. We aren't exposed to the top level of squash until a later age. There is still a ton of squash to learn.

"I think I have the physical attributes to get there. Now it's just learning the ins and outs of squash. I feel I'm doing that every season, so both myself and Joelle can definitely get there."

Coll prides himself on his fitness.

His reputation in the game revolves round a never-say-die philosophy, which has him leaping forward to retrieve seemingly unretrievable drop shots, then flinging himself sideways into physically challenging situations.

"I enjoy that side of it. I come from a very physical family. We were brought up that way," he said with a discernible pride. Uncle Tony Coll was a tough, talented Kiwi league forward in the 1970s and 80s.

"That's definitely my strength on court and it's just about developing those other attributes."

Top of which would be...

"The severity of my shots, being more aggressive when I have the opportunity."

He has two coaches, Tommy Berden, a former Dutch international, and former world No 1 Lee Beachill of England.

The perfect team around him, is Coll's description. His Belgian girlfriend, Nele Gilis, is world No 34. Life is pretty good right now.

A big season lies ahead if Coll is to take another solid step or two towards his ultimate goal.

The nationals will finish on Sunday afternoon.