Underwater hockey teen heading to world titles

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times

Congratulations to The Busselton Freight Services Rising Sports Star for October Bailey Annear, who will use the cash prize to fund his trip to the World Underwater Hockey Championships in Sheffield, England.

The 16-year-old will play in the under-19 and under-24 Australian teams competing against competition favourites France, Turkey and “arch nemesis” New Zealand.

Underwater hockey is played in a 25m pool in 2m-deep water with two thin metal goals at each end.

Players are equipped with a swimming cap, mask, snorkel, fins and a ruler-like hockey stick with a hook, aiming to hit a puck off the bottom of the pool into the goal.

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There are six players in the game on each team — a centre, two wings, two half-backs and one full-back.

Bailey said he dreamt of a day when the sport would become more mainstream, but at this stage crowds were small.

“It’s different but once you get the hang of it the game is very interesting. A lot of people who I have introduced to the sport want to learn more,” he said.

At the elite level of the world championships, underwater cameras are positioned to televise the sport to spectators, with up to 200 people watching at the live event.

“There is a lot of training involved to get there, I do a lot of breath-hold and swimming training in the pool at Geographe Leisure Centre,” Bailey said.

“The league is obviously well above my age group and I don’t want to let my team down. We have a goal to get a medal.”

The Cape Naturaliste College student will miss school in June to travel to the UK for the biennial championships, but said he was ready for the challenge after competing in the trans-Tasman competition and in Margaret River, Busselton, Bunbury and Perth.

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