Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon
Gareth Ward-Allan

Gareth is excited to go to the Gold Coast for the underwater hockey World Championship.

After being persuaded to get in the water by an “overly zealous” underwater hockey coach, Gareth Ward-Allen can’t believe he is now headed to the World Championships only eight years later.

The University of Otago Physiotherapy student says his passion for the sport started in an unlikely way.

It was actually his younger brother who played underwater hockey in their hometown, Tauranga.

One day he drove his brother to a game when the team coach spotted Gareth and said to him, “You look sporty, you need to get in the pool”.

Gareth says the coach was quite insistent, so he ended up getting into the pool, clothes and all, to play a game.

“He was quite adamant I give it go and, when I went to leave that day, he was equally insistent that I come back to play in the future,” Gareth says.

“Since I had such a great time, I did. That was in 2015 and it’s been such an awesome ride that I haven’t looked back since.”

Gareth’s brother still plays the sport too and the pair often compete and train with each other. He says that his brother is an “excellent swimmer” and gives him a hard time when he out-swims him.

With less than a month until the Worlds he is hard at work preparing, with both a busy training regime and placement schedule as a fourth-year physiotherapy student.

Gareth Ward-Allen underwater playing polo

Underwater hockey is played with a stick, silicone glove, cap, mask, and most people wear speedos as demonstrated by Gareth in this training shot at the Dunedin pool.

He manages both passions by holding fast to the “tried-and-true method” that hard work pays off, and encouraging others to find what makes them enthusiastic and give it all they’ve got, he says.

“My main motivation for wanting to be a physiotherapist is to be able to meaningfully help and rehabilitate a person to being the best and most rewarding version of themselves.

“Likewise, investing time and energy into my sport is me doing that for myself - trying to be the best I can be.

“So, I’d encourage people to find what matters most to them and then work hard at it.

“Though initial steps are often the hardest, like starting University or even when I jumped into the pool to play that very first time, trying your best again and again will eventually produce the results you want to see.”

This will be Gareth’s second World Championship but his first competing in the elite men’s grade, which features men aged 18-years-old and upwards.

His first World Championship was at age 18 and took place in 2019 where he played in New Zealand in the Sheffield category - those under 24 years of age.

However, this year he will be playing in the Elite Men’s category, for those 18-years old and above, on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Though he is nervous, he says he is also very excited for the opportunity and can’t wait to see what this year’s competition will look like.

Kōrero by the Division of Health Sciences Communications Adviser, Kelsey Schutte.

Gareth Ward-Allen playing underwater polo

Underwater hockey is played at the bottom of a pool where each 6-person team tries to get a 1.5 kilo puck into the other team’s underwater tray to score a point.

Back to top