The Tauranga Water Polo Club make their National Water Polo League finals debut this weekend, as one of only two clubs represented by both their senior men's and women's squads.
Body in Motion Tauranga Men's and Body in Motion Tauranga Women's teams have put in a lot of hard work to make it to the Honda National Water Polo League (HNWPL) level and head coach Lionel Randall says they are feeling humble going into this weekend.
The Honda National Water Polo League is New Zealand's premier domestic water polo competition consisting of 13 teams from across New Zealand representing eight clubs in both men's and women's competitions.
The club's senior men's and women's teams ended the regular season in third place to qualify for the semi-finals. The women will start their finals campaign against Waitakere Blue Diamonds at 3:15pm today and the men will go into their semifinal against Hutt Heat at 6:45pm.
"We're feeling humble. It's the first time we've ever had any teams in the finals weekend, that's come as a result of hard work," Randall says.
The weekend's eight games, held at Auckland's Diocesan Aquatic Centre, will see the champions crowned in the 2019 HNWPL with Tauranga in contention for the titles for the first time.
"Our hearts are on fire ... we believe in ourselves," Randall says.
In the final round of the men's competition last weekend, Marist Magic confirmed their place at the top of the table to secure a place in finals weekend but the three remaining semi-finalists were still undecided with just a handful of games left to play.
Tauranga was fighting for a top four finish along with North Harbour Turtles, Waitakere Blue Devils and Hutt Heat but a 8-6 win for the local side over Hutt in Wellington last Saturday, was enough to secure a third place spot in the overall competition standings.
They are now set for a re-match with Hutt Heat in today's semifinal.
It was less of a nail-biter in the women's draw, Tauranga's strength shining through throughout the season to put them in good stead for a semifinals berth.
A convincing thumping of newcomers Hibiscus Coast in Auckland 16-5 saw Tauranga leap-frog the other National League debutant in Atlantis City last Saturday – but it was another result that played into the Bay of Plenty club's favour on Sunday to save a tie-breaker on the points table.
Hutt Heat managed to steal their only point of the season off Atlantis City in a penalty shoot-out, meaning the Auckland-based club finishes the regular season on 19 points in fourth, behind Tauranga in third on 20.
This means the Tauranga women dodge facing favourites North Harbour in the semis, who eclipsed the field undefeated.
Randall says the only other club to have both their men's and women's teams in the finals weekend are North Harbour, who are national champions.
He says the men's team features two schoolboys and the women's squad has about seven school girls, with both teams working their hardest for their teammates.
"It's not a team, it's actually like a family.
"We want to go for this."
Medal matches get underway 11:15am tomorrow, with all eight finals weekend matches being streamed live on the New Zealand Water Polo Facebook page.
Tauranga's Saturday fixtures at Auckland's Diocesan Aquatic Centre:
Women's semifinal: Body in Motion Tauranga vs Waitakere, 3:15pm.
Men's semifinal: Body in Motion Tauranga vs Hutt, 6:45pm.
Sunday fixtures at Auckland's Diocesan Aquatic Centre:
Women's bronze medal: 11:15am.
Men's bronze medal: 1pm.
Women's gold medal: 2:45pm.
Men's gold medal: 4:30pm.