April 2019 | Chris Grose
NESTLED IN the hills behind Lilydale is a picturesque and peaceful farm dam. Peaceful, that is, except when the ducks and platypus give way to a small group of dedicated and enthusiastic people busy training for the National Canoe Polo Championships in Penrith NSW, where they will represent Tasmania over Easter.
“It’s been twenty years since Tasmania last sent a team to the Nationals,” says team manager Jenny Purtell as she watches what appears to be the chaos of a dozen or so kayaks bumping and bashing as their occupants attempt to toss a ball into a goal set 2 metres above the water, or wrestle the ball from the opposing team.
“This year we are sending a Masters and a Junior team, with the emphasis on participation, learning new skills and having an enjoyable time.” Dominic Grose, 17, from Blackstone Heights, has been selected for the Junior team and is excited to be representing his home state. “I only started playing canoe polo with Tamar Canoe Club last year,” explained Dominic, “but there is only a relatively small number of players around in my age group so I put my hand up and was fortunate enough to be selected.”
Sending 17 athletes and kayaking gear interstate is proving to be a challenge but the teams feel it will definitely be worth the trouble and are busy fund-raising to purchase new, competition-standard gear. With financial support from Tamar Canoe Club and local businesses, the group are also receiving help from an unexpected quarter. “We are so lucky to have the support of Australian canoe polo team member Jade Kerber,” says Dominic.
Jade has volunteered his time to give extra coaching in the month prior to the competition. “Jade’s dedication and generosity sets a great example for our junior players as they start their journey towards high level sport,” Jenny adds. “The forming of the team has had many more benefits than purely physical gains – it has built friendships, a sense of camaraderie, developed team work and built self-confidence within its members.” Canoe polo is a relatively low-profile sport, particularly in Tasmania.
While not anticipating great success this year, Jenny hopes that the experience will stand the teams in good stead for the future competitions and boost interest in the sport.