The Whanganui connections in the New Zealand senior men's roller hockey team have featured heavily in the lead-up matches to the 2019 World Roller Games in Barcelona, Spain.

Eighteen-year-old Jimi Blinkhorne and 35-year-old Dean Fitness are among the starting line-up of the 12-strong squad who have been gaining much-needed practice against European club sides ahead of the world competition that begins on Sunday New Zealand time.

As a warm-up to the world competition, the New Zealand team entered the Rink Hockey Tournoi International Blagnac in France.

This competition was a club side contest between HC Rega & Bofe from Portugal, Spanish club sides Alpicat and Saint Celoni and hosts the Blagnac Sporting Club from France.

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Surprisingly, the Kiwis were not out of their depth as initially thought.

Blinkhorne has first hand knowledge of the strength of European club roller hockey through a training camp he attended in Spain during the 2017 season, while Fitness is no stranger to international competition as a five-time New Zealand representative.

Both thought the club sides would dominate, but were pleasantly surprised they held their ground.

Blinkhorne's father Paul is on tour with the Kiwi team and had good news to write home about in a facebook report on Monday.

Jimi, left, and Paul Blinkhorne during a father/son tour of France ahead of World Roller Games in Spain this weekend.
Jimi, left, and Paul Blinkhorne during a father/son tour of France ahead of World Roller Games in Spain this weekend.

"(The) team is performing above expectations," Blinkhorne senior said.

"With two key players injured plus-40c temperatures they have managed some pleasing results against top calibre European club teams. We've had one notable loss against Rega & Bofè, a very talented Portuguese side, and two very close games which were unlucky not to go our way. We had a 3-1 loss to Blagnac and a very impressive performance to narrowly go down 6-5 to Spanish side Alpicat 6-5.

"Both Whanganui players featuring heavily and Jimi scored an outstanding goal against Alpicat to keep the match alive. Now the team is in good spirits and focused on the worlds and progress even further. We have a training planned for Tuesday evening with the Blagnac club a last hit out before the World Cup," Blinkhorne said.

The New Zealand roller hockey team will compete in the Rink Hockey Challenger's Championship competition in Terrassa, Spain and have drawn the men's Group A pool alongside Belgium, Chinese Taipei, Uruguay, Japan and group favourites Austria.

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