Coming from a small town like Oamaru gives Liam Direen plenty to play for when he takes on competitors from bigger centres.
The St Kevin’s College pupil has been selected in the New Zealand Squash 2020 Elite Junior Squad, which will convene for four training camps over the next 12 months.
The selection caps off a great season for Liam (15), who finished fifth at the National Under 15 championship last month and competed at the Malaysian Junior Open in July.
“Being from a small town and still being able to achieve big things is pretty special,” Liam said.
“When you go to a tournament, you are really representing something; the whole club and town are behind you.”
About 20 promising young New Zealand squash players were selected for the squad.
“It’s building up towards the Under 19 team,” he said.
“To be selected for the New Zealand team would be pretty amazing.”
Liam, who plays out of the Oamaru Squash and Badminton Club, said competing in Malaysia earlier this year was an eye-opener.
“Competition-wise, they take it pretty seriously.
“I played guys from Singapore, China and the UK. I went over there without being seeded so it was good to be a bit of an underdog.
“Compared to some of the kids I played against, I had no major expectations.”
During the summer, Liam plays cricket and basketball, and he said that gave him a mental edge over some of his competition.
“Some of the kids started [playing squash] when they were 6, all they do is squash and they don’t handle losing as well.”
Liam was looking forward to attending the two-day Elite Junior Squad camps in Auckland and the chance to develop his game.
“My strength would be playing attacking shots so I don’t have to run around as much.
“This summer I’ll be focusing on my fitness, it’s pretty important with all the tournaments being played.”
Liam moves to the under 17 grade next year. He said his focus would be on improving his game and he would not put too much stock on his results, as it will be the first of two years he has to grow as a player in the grade.
The first two major competitions he is targeting are the Oceania Juniors and Australian Junior Open, both in April next year.