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Off to world water polo champs

ESTHER LAUAKI
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012

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Two young water polo players have barely had time to catch their breath since they were selected in the New Zealand youth men's squad to compete at the world championships this month.

Year 13 Sacred Heart College pupils, Matthew Lewis, 18, and Braeden Drennan, 17, are headed to Perth to compete at the FINA World Youth Men's Water Polo Championships on November 25.

They are juggling intensive training schedules, fundraising events and senior NCEA exams before their trip.

"It's been intense. We leave in two weeks and it's hit us that we have to start stepping it up with training. We've had to study for exams as well so it's been tough trying to fit in about 13 sessions of training a week including gym sessions," Drennan says.

"Playing against some of the top dog teams will be the biggest thing for me," Lewis says. "We hardly get to play against any top teams here because we're such a minority sport in New Zealand."

Croatia and Australia are vying for top-four positions and will be New Zealand's first challengers during the pool rounds. The squad will also take on South Africa and Colombia.

Each player needed to raise $6000 to cover flights and expenses so the boys enlisted their mums to help with cake stalls, sausage sizzles, a silent auction and a wine tasting evening.

Drennan and Lewis have been playing for Marist Water Polo Club, based at Sacred Heart Aquatic Centre, for eight years. Lewis says they started in the flippa-ball league as 10-year-olds but they've known each other since they were babies.

"Our mums met on a bus and became friends and we ended up going to the same schools. It's good because we know most of the players in the team really well and we've played against them for ages," he says.

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- East And Bays Courier

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