The New Zealand Junior Women’s Floorball team, featuring nine current secondary school players, lines up against the best sides of the world next month at the eighth Women´s U19 World Floorball Championships in Switzerland.
For the first time, New Zealand is sending a team to the World Cup tournament, alongside 15 other countries.
For all but two players it will be their first time overseas representing New Zealand but for five of the team, including Mia Solomon and Marie Sundin who College Sport Media caught up with at their recent training camp, not their first time wearing the black fern.
“Last year we played for the New Zealand Women’s Floorball team, we played lots of other international teams like China, Malaysia and Thailand,” said Mia, who is year 12 at Wellington East Girls’ College.” New Zealand finished sixth overall in that tournament, missing out on the Senior World Cup by two spots. “The whole U19 squad is really excited to be heading to Europe for this World Cup,” Mia enthused.
The tournament runs from 2-6 May but the New Zealand squad will be arriving early to acclimatise and to play some matches against local club teams.
Floorball is an indoor version of hockey with plastic sticks and a lightweight plastic ball.
It is akin to ice hockey, played inside an enclosed rink with the goals set in play so play continues behind them. There are five players plus a goalie on the court at any one time. Positions include centre, left and right wings, left and right defenders and a goalie. Plus need to be flexible and be able to play multiple positions.
Over 300,000 people around the world play the sport and there are professional leagues in parts of Europe.
Like the indoor football game, futsal, floorball is fast-paced to play and action-packed to watch, and success in Switzerland could be a catalyst for growth.
There are two divisions of eight teams each competing at the Junior World Championships. Being a first time entrant, New Zealand is in the B division, where the carrot for winning is a place in the top tier at the next U19 World Cup in two years.
“We are hoping to finish in the top two places of our pool, so we can go into the next round. We are playing Canada, Hungary and Russia, so it will be good competition for us.” said Mia.
Mia and Marie, who is year 13 at Wellington High School, said little is known about the opposition, but they will be expecting them to be fast and aggressive. All three – in particular Canada and Russia – have strong ice hockey cultures.
The four teams in the B division are Austria, USA, Latvia and Australia, who are also at the tournament for the first time.
In the A division, Sweden are the two-time defending champions and have won five of seven Junior Women’s World Championship tournaments since the first in 2004. Finland and host country Switzerland were the winners of the other two. These same countries dominate the Junior Men’s competition as well.
Like most players, Mia and Marie joined up through friends and got hooked. For most of the team floorball is their main sport, with players also with backgrounds in other sports such as swimming, netball, athletics and field hockey.
All nine of the current school-aged players heading to Switzerland competed in the recent NZSS tournament during Summer Tournament Week.
Wellington East Girls’ College won the Girls final, beating Samuel Marsden Collegiate 8-0, Pukekohe High School beat Wellington High School 5-4 and then Wellington High School reversed that with a 7-2 win to decide the Mixed competition and Wellington College beat Scots College 2-1 in the Boys final. There were also Boys and Girls U15 divisions, won by Rongotai College and Wellington East Girls’ College.
The players also play in club competitions. Mia and Marie, along with 10 of their New Zealand teammates, play for the Wellington Storm club. Two others play for the Upper Hutt and Drury clubs.
As well as the Women, the New Zealand U19 Men’s team is set to play World Cup Qualification games in Wellington from 27-29 September against Australia and Japan. Their World Cup tournament is next year.
For more information about the Floorball U19 Women’s World Cup visit the official tournament website here
The New Zealand Junior Women’s Floorball team is (Schools of current school players in brackets):
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