Water polo is a sport that combines so many other codes and has been identified as one of the toughest there is - and some of New Zealand's best are right here in Tauranga.

Four Tauranga Water Polo Club members Kate Enoka, 24, Nick Paterson, 19, Shinae Carrington, 18, and Bae Fountain, 18, have been selected to represent New Zealand at the 2019 Fina Water Polo World League Intercontinental Cup at Perth's HBF stadium between March 26 and 31.

The team selections were made this month, with both Enoka and Carrington being the only athletes outside of the Auckland region having made the New Zealand Women's team. Fountain and Paterson, who have both made the national squad before, are the only Tauranga athletes to have made the New Zealand Men's team, with all other players coming from Auckland and Wellington.

Between them, they have more than 40 years of experience playing, each having spent more of their life in the sport than not. It's a massive part of their life and their efforts speak for themselves.


Enoka says there is no other sport that challenges her as much as water polo does, which is why she has been involved for about 17 years.

"It's challenging because it's a combination of so many different sports," Enoka says.

"There's no other sport that kind of challenges me the same," she says.

"It's pretty tough," Fountain says.

He says he doesn't think people understand everything involved with the sport.

"People always think we're underwater hockey," Enoka says.

"They don't understand the physicality of it," Fountain says.

"There's a lot more that goes on in the water, there's a lot of fighting under the water."


They train most days and with club games, team practices, training camps in Auckland with their New Zealand teams as well as their own efforts, average about 20 hours a week each in the lead up to competition, reaching up to 24 hours each a week at times.

This is on top of their many other commitments. Enoka works fulltime as a tattoo artist, Carrington works part-time, Fountain studies fulltime at the University of Waikato's Tauranga campus and Paterson is an apprentice builder.

Going from work straight to training sessions is not uncommon and it's not unusual for games to finish after 9pm.

It's a tough gig being a water polo athlete. Water polo is a self-funded sport in New Zealand, which means athletes have to work and are not able to focus fulltime on their sport. They estimate the cost of playing water polo at their level being between $10,000 and $15,000, out of their own pocket.

At the end of the day, the time they put in to become elite athletes is more often than not taken away from their own family and social time.

"I could be a much better player if I could have more time," Enoka says.

Enoka attended Arizona State University on a water polo scholarship between 2012 and 2014. She says the difference between being an elite water polo athlete between the two countries is massive, as it is with many other sports.

"You could study fulltime and train fulltime. You've got everything covered."

It is no criticism on Water Polo New Zealand though, with Enoka saying the organisation does everything they can to support athletes.

Tauranga Water Polo head coach Lionel Randall says it can be frustrating for athletes because there are many instances where they develop their skills in New Zealand but head overseas to continue their careers because there is more support. He says quite often, New Zealand seems to be developing our athletes for other countries to beat us at international events.

All four want to continue representing New Zealand well into the future though, so they will continue to work just as hard as they have been. They'd like to see how far they could go with more support in the sport though.

They love the sport. They love the challenge of it, have been able to travel to many countries around the world such as to compete and have many career highlights to date on top of their selection for the New Zealand men's and women's teams.

"Last year we went to the youth world champs in Serbia and we played Russia for our first game. We didn't beat them but we were leading them most of the game," Carrington says of her highlight.

For Enoka, it was when she captained the New Zealand Youth team to a sixth placing at the world champs.

Fountain says making the men's team at 16 is something to remember, as is being named the MVP of two games at the world champs; while Paterson says some of his peaks include captaining a Youth squad, starting for the national senior men's team against Canada - a country ranked much higher than New Zealand - and scoring twice against them.

They are also aiming for Olympic selections in the near future in the sport - and with each of their efforts, they seem to be a good place to achieve that goal.

Another notable appointment coming out of the Tauranga Water Polo Club is their head coach being named as the assistant coach of the men's team.

Randall says the club is proud of all four of their players and believes there is a massive talent in Tauranga and New Zealand.

"I think it's the first time we've had four national players ... it's exciting."