Two young Oamaru squash players have been selected for national duties in response to their rapid progress this year in the sport.
Keidah Bungard (17) and Liam Direen (13) were both informed recently of their new status in the national rankings for squash players in New Zealand.
Bungard’s elevation to sixth in the country led to his inclusion in the New Zealand junior team that will compete at the transtasman championships in Brisbane in January.
“It just happened – I didn’t expect it – but the top two guys were going to be away playing elsewere so I was asked to join the team,” Bungard said.
Bungard said he was looking forward to a very heavy training schedule before the tournament and had enlisted the aid of squash professional Lance Beddoes, who had offered him a slot in his mentored training programme.
“My fitness training regime includes a mixture of strength and skills training three to four times a week and then he monitors my progress and then advises me,” Bungard said.
He has even been advised to train wearing a parka to prepare him for the heat and humidity in Brisbane.
Training and playing six to 10 games a week make spare time precious for the postal worker, who has made rapid strides in squash in recent years.
“I started early but only really got into when I turned 14.
“I went up the grades pretty fast, going from e2 to c2 in just one year, and people encouraged me to carry on training and to keep winning matches,” he said.
As an under-15 player, he soon found himself ranked seventh in the country and top in the South Island, and joined the national emerging players squad.
Liam Direen (13), heading to St Kevin’s College next year, is almost following in Bungard’s steps with his own inclusion in the Squash NZ national youth development squad for talented players aged 10 to 13.
Direen said he took up the sport because his parents played often and he could not wait to get out on the court between their games.
Although he wants to improve his squash skills, it will have to fit in between a heavy schedule of representative rugby and cricket duties.
This year, he captained the North Otago under-13 rugby team and fronted up for the cricket team as well.
“I want to get better at squash. I moved from e2 to d1 in the rankings this year and I want to get better at it,” he said.