Namibia trip Jones' reward

CHAMPS: Central player Sam Atkins and Wellington player Luke Jones at tbe SquashGym in Palmerston North.
CHAMPS: Central player Sam Atkins and Wellington player Luke Jones at tbe SquashGym in Palmerston North.

Mangatainoka has produced many a sportsman, but few from the tiny hamlet have ventured as far as Windhoek.

On Sunday, squash player Luke Jones embarked on four flights to get there, to Namibia in southern Africa, for the world junior championships.

A boarder at Palmerston North Boys' High School's College House, 17-year-old Jones grew up playing traditional sports like tennis and rugby. Now he is the top junior in the Central Squash region.

He was introduced to squash by his mother, Andrea Herbert, a B-grader and junior coach at the Tararua Squash Club in Pahiatua.

"I had to give up most sports because of squash," Jones said.

Now he has time for little else, besides schoolwork. After school he trains under his coach, Kashif Shuja, at Palmerston North's SquashGym and works out in the gym.

"Kashif has made a huge difference, his experience has helped me, with lifestyle and my programme."

A tall lad, he hits the ball hard and has got fitter and stronger thanks to his off-season work. After 10 years in the sport he is halfway up the A2 ranks en route to A1, by next year he hopes. He has a year left in juniors.

As for his future, he says academically he does enough to pass.

"I want to go and do something with squash, playing professionally or coaching. I want to travel and put squash as my main focus."

Earlier this year he was chuffed to beat former New Zealand player Josh Greenfield, only a part-timer these days. But a week ago Jones won his first major junior title, the North Island, although some of the top players took the weekend off.

There were nine players competing for the New Zealand team when Jones started out. He finished second or third in the selection events and only lost to the No 1 player, Scott Galloway (Wellington) 11-9 in the fifth.

Jones has worn the black shirt previously, as part of the New Zealand schools' team against Australia in Palmerston North at the end of last year. Also for the New Zealand juniors to the Gold Coast in January where he was the top individual New Zealander.

Other Manawatu players who have played at world junior championships have been Matt Nation at Palmerston North in 2006 and Greenfield to Chennai, India, in 2002.

Manawatu Standard