Quebec 2018 #2 - Selections, Positions and Pools

We had an epic selection camp, bit of a new thing from Benson, 4 days long which is 2 days longer than our standard camps. 

Before that we had camps in Rotorua and then Wellington, which is middlish of the country.  In Wellington we could billet players even which helps with costs.  NZ is a small country and we can get together for camps and selections fairly easily...  not as easily as say, Holland where they can drive across the country in a couple of hours, but we certainly don't have the issues facing a huge country like Australia or the USA.  More on this later.

For prize winners in the driving for Uwh categories, the best contenders I know of are Slovenia in 2007 who drove from Llubjana to Bari non-stop (about 10hr), and the hands-down winners, the Portuguese team who have driven from Portugal non-stop to places like Breda in Holland.  That's 19 hours non-stop.  Those guys are insane, more about them later I'm sure.

Well I hope someone managed to sleep

The standard at camps was high and the playing group was very tight, with great players making the team but also great players staying at home when final selections had been made.  We ended up with a good mix of enthusiastic young fellas, players in their prime(theoretically!) and old timers (me).

I should do some introductions as we go along.

First, the ones keeping me on my toes.

Danni prefers to stay in the background, but she put in an absolutely mammoth shift making it possible for me to do the training to make the team and get to the comp.  She's a superwoman and anyone who has trained for these comps with kids will know what I'm talking about.  It's a very hard thing working toward a dream but at the same time that work taking energy and time away from your family.  It did mean that I pushed really hard to get the most out of every session.  I think I ended up the fittest I've been in a couple decades of international comps, I certainly trained the most, ironically when time was most precious!  Danni held everything together to make it possible with our 2 kids under 5, running our own business through endless camps, tournaments, selections and then the big comp itself.

And now our coach, who had been masterminding it all from the beginning.  Benson is #66 in the NZ player numbering system.  So fitting.

Benson at rest.
Benson coaching us.

Benson Taylor Wolf likes to live life on the edge, and with a reckless disregard for timing he and his partner hatched a plot to make things as exciting as possible by threatening to have a baby at each of the last couple of camps, and then doing it.  This was very cool and the guys all appreciated this level of commitment.

Benson uses a stick of his own design, computer modelled by us here at Hydro and similar to the Shiv (which is based on his design) but 3mm shorter.  Which tells you what kind of attention to detail you are dealing with when it comes to Uwh for this man.  He also uses one of our Ninja gloves on occasion, which I am proud of as he is hard to please.  He is a Najade guru with thighs like alaskan tree trunks.

Our manager Sarah Arnold stepped in at the last minute when she finally realised that we were all going to wander off like badly herded cats if she didn't keep us sailing straight, she had been organising everything all the way along as caretaker manager anyway....  was in denial until the very end I guess.

Sarah.  Serves mince for breakfast.

I better introduce myself.  I'll do all the fellas as we get to them.

Me in first NZ Mens team, 1999.

19 years later, worn around the edges.

I'm Liam, bewildered Dad and professional Uwh gear-maker.  #75.

I use a Ninja glove with a kevlar liner (available soon), Ghost Tomahawks (soft with great holes chopped in them, available soon) and Murena fins. 

More intro later, now a bit about Positions.

After a really gutting result in 2016 where we got knocked out by the great GB comeback in our quarter-final, I played forward at club level to do something a bit different and really enjoyed it.

First time playing forward since 2000, but back then I was a little fella with a wee stick who practised backflicking more than anything else and hardly ever turned....  Now I was a goalie playing forward with a giant stick and hook (for NZ hockey), swimming around slowly and doing nothing but turning and trying to hold possession.  I kept at it and ended up trialling at forward for the 2018 team, as "that guy who gives you something different in that position" kinda thing.  As our style of forward goes, the kind of forward where your partner forward knows he is on strike every time you're in the water with him and knows he can't pass to you until after 1st phase because you'll be back behind his fins. But didn't I come back and do work on D!  I sure did.  Backs trying to play forward, that's what we do apparently.

Playing forward in a deep pool changed my training quite a bit, trying to go for long bursts of play at high intensity and then resting, simulating big involvements and then subbing.  I've always been a high workrate type player and struggled with long breatholds (and deep pools). However, towards the end of our selection Benson changed things up a little and tried me again in the backline, and I ended up getting selected as some kind of utility.  The balance of the team could go a lot of ways with lots and lots of guys able to play different positions and configurations, but I ended up looking like I was going to play goalie or maybe wing, in the backline anyway.  Goalie would be for the first time in ten years, although it felt like it had always been my default position.  Funny how that is, like an old glove I guess.  Goalie in NZ is like a fullback, center-back, or 6 in other countries.

Like a glove.

So after the selection camp, we had our team.  A few weeks more of pretty fanatical training with a couple of last camps to round off the rough edges, and we were nearly ready to head off to the competition.

In terms of getting some time in 3m pools, Jesse had a comp in the Quebec 3m pool itself to get a bit of a handle on it and do some reccie for us earlier in the year, he went over to play in a team with Jake and a bunch of fantastic players from a few different countries.

Locombia reprazent!

The boys who went to Hawaii did get to play in 3m there and Benson was very careful to do a lot of analysis of that comp, it was useful in helping figure out what parts of a 2m game he could take through and what bits needed to be basically re-built or ditched and replaced.  I got over to Aus Nats in Perth and played for QLD in the 3m pool there too, so a few of us did get a bit of practice in the depth and we all had an idea of what it would be like.

And so, after all that careful prep, it turned out the last thing I did before leaving the country was pick up a cold to take with me to Canada.

Next post is Welcome to Canada!

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