Members of New Zealand's surf life saving team at the SA Aquatic Centre at Marion: Andrew Trembath, Carina Doyle, Steven Kent, Natalie Peat and Chris Dawson: Picture Dean Martin
Members of New Zealand's surf life saving team at the SA Aquatic Centre at Marion: Andrew Trembath, Carina Doyle, Steven Kent, Natalie Peat and Chris Dawson: Picture Dean Martin

How NZ upset the world order

New Zealand lifesaving captain Steven Kent has heard the taunts from Australians since he was a boy.

Take out the rugby, where the All Blacks are peerless, and the tight rivalry between Australia and NZ in netball, and the Kiwis are used to being referred to as the little brother.

Australia's medal tally normally dwarfs everybody else's in the Commonwealth Games, Australia rarely loses a cricket Test Match to NZ and used to be - naturally, at a quick glance - the powerhouse of surf lifesaving, which is such a central part of Australian life.

But in 2012 in Adelaide, New Zealand shocked the lifesaving community by beating Australia and France to win the world lifesaving championships - and hasn't looked back.

The Kiwis backed up its title in France in 2014 and again in The Netherlands two years later.

 

Members of the Canadian team: Lisa Brown, Karen Zerr, Andy Shelp, and Daniel Berube. Picture: Dean Martin
Members of the Canadian team: Lisa Brown, Karen Zerr, Andy Shelp, and Daniel Berube. Picture: Dean Martin

 

As another two years have gone past and another championship is about to start in Adelaide, national captain Kent, 30 - who is about to embark on his sixth world titles - is confident New Zealand has the team to win for the fourth time in succession.

"Australia has come second the last couple of times but there are other teams that are pretty sharp," Kent said.

"France is quite strong in the pool, on the beach the South Africans.

"Our whole team is pretty well rounded - we've got some really strong pool athletes and we've won the beach side of the competition the last couple of world championships.

"We're pretty dominant in that area and want to keep that up."

Kent has an individual world record and an accompanying gold medal to his name - along with a raft of silvers and bronzes.

But he reckoned it was because New Zealand's way of putting team before individual glory that it had manage to displace Australia as the worlds' power.

That means competing in as many as 20 events for Kent himself.

 

Adelaide siblings Ben, Georgia and Matt Zuill will compete in the World Surf Lifesaving Championships. Picture: BIANCA DE MARCHI
Adelaide siblings Ben, Georgia and Matt Zuill will compete in the World Surf Lifesaving Championships. Picture: BIANCA DE MARCHI

Rather than saving himself for his best events, he sets out to get into as many finals as possible to chalk up valuable points for New Zealand.

Winning individual medals is a secondary focus.

"There's individual events accumulated towards total points," Kent said. "And there's relays.

"But the way New Zealand looks at it we put our best foot forward for the overall team (title).

"That's our main focus and that's how we like to operate in our team culture."

Kent, who works as the head coach at a swimming club in Auckland, said the beach culture and surf lifesaving scene was much the same in New Zealand as it is in Australia.

The difference is in numbers: they have 75 lifesaving clubs across the ditch compared to 311 here.

And they have been winning since 2012.

The Lifesaving World Championships run at the SA Aquatic Centre and Glenelg Beat from November 22-December 2.



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