BOP Times: Water polo set to launch at Tauranga waterfront

What beach volleyball was to Mount Maunganui, water polo could be to the Tauranga waterfront.

Danny Kayes hopes to raise the profile of water polo through a new event planned for the Tauranga waterfront next year. Photo / George Novak

The Tauranga Water Polo Club is well advanced with plans for Water Polo on the Waterfront in late February next year. A 25m by 15m pool will be roped off by the tidal steps beside The Strand and it's hoped 12 club or composite teams from around the country will compete in the two-day tournament on February 23 and 24, 2019.

"What we're really keen to bring to the Tauranga waterfront is a fun, exciting, fast and action-packed couple of days of some really high profile water polo," says Danny Kayes, one of the driving forces behind the event.

"There's going to be some pretty cool aspects to the tournament."

Tauranga Water Polo's head coach, Lionel Randall, who's been responsible for some remarkably successful results in his first year at the club, is delighted with the concept.

"I'm just really proud of, and keen to support, my senior players with their vision of growing the game here in Tauranga and showcasing the best of what New Zealand water polo can offer."

Consent has been granted by the Tauranga City Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council (one administers the steps and surrounding areas, the other looks after the harbour) and both local bodies are supportive of the idea.

A 25 metre by 15 metre pool will be roped off by the tidal steps beside The Strand as part of the planned Water Polo on the Waterfront two day tournament in February.

Kayes hopes that with food stalls set up on the Strand or in the grassy areas near the children's playgrounds, and with music playing, it'll be a popular late summer attraction in the city.

Teams will have slightly fewer players than usual water polo in the pool.

"We'll have a five-person playing field instead of the normal seven, and matches will be eight-minute halves instead of eight-minute quarters, so each will be half the normal duration. The idea is there'll be more action and it'll be faster water polo to watch."

Kayes is hopeful the best players in the country will come.

"I've already approached some members of the New Zealand team and they're really interested. We're also hoping to get a few expats down, players who have previously played for New Zealand and are now in overseas leagues."

One of the more fascinating aspects of the action will be the impact of the tides. With the event played over two days, there'll be different water levels as the tides come and go, not to mention the currents.

"The tides are pretty strong here in the harbour and the water does change quite a bit in terms of height. So we expect it to be quite a bit of a challenge sometimes, but hey look, it's all part of the game. We want the two days to be more fun than serious."

The key to the set-up of the pool, which will be about 10m out from the tidal steps, is the depth of the harbour in that spot.

"We're planning on having the pool just far enough away so that no players will be touching the bottom with their feet, the depth will always be more than head height.

"We have engineered our own bits of equipment to suit the tides and the changes in levels of the water."

But the tides and the location of the pool mean this first event is restricted to senior men's players only.

"This first year is very much in the trial stage. We don't know how it's going to go so we decided to make it for male players 18 years old and over. If it's a success, which we hope it is, then we'll expand to women and maybe age-group grades too."

Kayes has been inspired to hold this event on the Tauranga waterfront after seeing something similar in Sydney.

"I've been involved in a couple of these events in the past. Water Polo by the Sea at Bondi is extremely popular. They have players from other codes and some celebrities go to it. That's just a one-off exhibition match, but this tournament event will provide more games and with a rugby sevens style format, we'll hopefully have a whole lot of people down on the Tauranga waterfront over the two days."

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