Water polo big part of Anton

TREADING WATER: Anton Sunde is heading to Perth for the World Youth Water Polo Championships.
TREADING WATER: Anton Sunde is heading to Perth for the World Youth Water Polo Championships.

It was hesitancy that almost put the brakes on Anton Sunde diving into water polo.

Now the 16-year-old from Oratia is heading to Perth with the New Zealand Youth men's team for the FINA World Youth Water Polo Championships kicking off this weekend.

Anton jumped into water polo at the age of 10 and is taking his game to new heights.

"Water polo looked like a very tough sport and I was very hesitant at first.

"But water polo is now huge for me. I've made so many friendships across so many different teams."

Anton is already a giant, standing at 1.90 metres and weighing 98kg.

He brings two years of international age-group experience and is one of the youngest in the New Zealand squad.

But despite his age Anton has immense speed and power, says his North Harbour Water Polo Club coach Davor Carevic.

"Anton has taken every opportunity to better himself, whether it be training with other age groups or on his own.

"He's a left-hander and a very good one, which is rare in this sport.

"This will give the New Zealand side more options with Anton finding better angles to work with against the defense," Carevic says.

Water polo is well known for its physical toughness, with some players swimming up to 5km in a one-hour match as well as treading water.

Anton's training schedule includes up to 10 sessions a week and he'll need to draw on that in Perth.

New Zealand face Australia, South Africa and Colombia in their pool but it's the prospect of facing Croatia that has got Anton champing at the bit.

Anton's great-grandfather is Croatian and moved from the former Yugoslavia to West Auckland in the early 1900s.

The Croatians are the current junior world champions and Anton's looking forward to the challenge.

"Being half-Croatian, it's very exciting to have the prospect of playing them.

"They are the best in the world and all the European sides train extremely hard.

"But we have some top players here too and there's no reason why we can't finish inside the top 10, which no other junior side in New Zealand has done."

Western Leader