DONNING flippers, a snorkeling mask and cap complete with ear guards might sound like an exercise in playful poolside antics, but it’s the gear underwater hockey player Anika Buckley will wear to represent Australia this July.
Selected to play as part of the Australian under 23 women’s side at just 17 years old was never a feat she imagined achieving.
“It’s crazy, I never really thought about it until last year at the nationals try-outs I thought ‘I can do it’,” she said.
The game, of two 15 minute halves involves six players a side diving down to play a puck across tiles on the floor on a two metre deep pool.
Somewhat like a submerged cousin of water polo, the sport is known for its fast pace and high numbers of substitutions as players tire holding their breath under the surface.
The Queanbeyan teenager has played competitively for two years but said discovering the sport came from a fluke suggestion by a teacher in her year 11 legal studies class at Narrabundah College.
“She heard that I was sporty and said ‘you should try underwater hockey’,” Ms Buckley said.
Having never dreamed of a sport like it, the then 15 year old went along to Tuggeranong pool to play and hasn’t looked back.
Separated from her Australian team coach, Ms Buckley manages her own training schedule, plays hour-long games twice a week, and works two part-time jobs while studying Law and Commerce at ANU.
She said she would put the $600 sports assistance grantmoney together with all her savings to get her to New Zealand to compete in the 2014 Trans- Tasman Championships in July.
Cr Sue Whelan said having only tried her hand at field hockey; she was intrigued to learn more about the peculiar sport and wished Ms Buckley the very best of luck in the pool.
“Congratulations to the young lady,” she said.
“I hope this helps her get where she needs to go.”