New Zealand canoe polo stalwart Carl Duncan believes the sport will receive a huge opportunity to boost its profile as part of the World Masters Games 2017 programme.
Carl, a Paddle Blacks international for the past decade, says the decision to stage the water sport as part of the quadrennial multi-sports festival on Lake Pupuke can only be of benefit and he can’t wait for the competition to start.
“To play a structured event on this scale against other countries from around the world here in New Zealand is not an opportunity we have regularly,” explains Carl. “It will help build the profile, this will give us valuable exposure and allow us to reach out to people who maybe haven’t seen the sport before.”
Introduced to canoe polo as a primary school student in Masterton he was quickly taken with the fast moving five-a-side team sport played in kayaks. He later went on to play for Chanel College and helped his school win a number of national medals before later progressing to the senior ranks.
“I’ve always loved sport and playing canoe polo has opened up so many opportunities,” he explains. “It has allowed me to travel to Europe to play the game and I also like the fact it incorporates both the skills of kayaking and basketball. I was a keen footballer as a youngster, but I quickly realised I would not play for the All Whites, so I chose canoe polo.”
The Palmerston North-based electrician made his Paddle Blacks debut in 2005 and has developed into a mainstay of the national team. He has featured in four World Championships and helped guide New Zealand to fifth at the 2010 edition in Italy – his country's best ever finish in the senior men's category.
Now aged 32, Carl has only had a couple of experiences playing the masters game but he is looking forward to featuring in the +30 age division at World Masters Games. He hopes to help assemble a team of former New Zealand internationals for that tournament and has called upon the rest of the canoe polo playing world to come and join the party.
“My hope is that other countries will also turn out,” he explains. “Canoe polo is a popular sport on the European mainland and it would be nice to get as many of them competing over here as possible. There is no point in us putting a crack team together if no-one will play against us!” he adds.