Glanford and Scunthorpe Canoe Club teenagers among the best in Britain
TWO talented North Lincolnshire teenagers will be hoping to cement their places as some of the country's top young canoe polo players next month.
Ben Havercroft and Shaun Burnett, both 17, will again link up with the sport's British Under-21 squad in Hatfield on December 8/9, hoping to keep their places going into 2013.
Both of the duo, who represent Glanford and Scunthorpe Canoe Club (GSCC), have ambitions to play for their country – and going paddle to paddle with the best in their age group has helped them further already burgeoning reputations.
"They're all amazing – loads better than me – but if we keep working at it and eventually progress to their kind of level, that would be great. That's where I'd like to be in the future," said Ben, of Hibaldstow.
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"Hopefully being able to train with these players, we can pick up a few little bits and take some of what we learn into our own games.
"We're going to the next trial to revalidate what we've already done and to make sure we're up to scratch. Hopefully we'll get in for another year.
"I've got a lot of improving to do before I'm good enough to play for them, but I'm only 17 at the moment, so time is on my side."
Shaun added: "It's been great – my fitness has gone up tremendously. Your general skills also improve because everybody picks up different things from each other.
"Me and Ben have got some more trials for the Under-21 team coming up and those that pass will play for the team.
"After that, if you're good enough you get to train with the seniors.
"I'd love to do it, but only if I'm good enough. I've still got a long way to go to get to that sort of standard."
The chance to trial for a place with the Great Britain squad came about thanks to the work of club coach Robert Petchey.
"He said that given where we'd come from, we were progressing quite rapidly and he wanted to take us to the next level," added John Leggott College student Ben.
Both Ben and Shaun, who is from Broughton, play for GSCC Stingrays, whom they helped to the Yorkshire League Division Four title last season. The club also run a side in Division Three, GSCC Warriors.
Canoe polo is similar to five-a-side football, but played in kayaks. Teams are made up of one goalkeeper, two defenders and two attackers.
Matches in regional competitions started last month and Shaun said it was an 'exciting' sport to be a part of.
"When I was younger, about 13, mum and me went to London and on the way down we stopped at a theme park and I tried it there. I told her I wanted to do it again," he said, of how he came to be involved.
"I really enjoy it. It's always exciting playing different teams. Everyone gets better, so you have to do the same.
"There aren't many clubs in this area, so it's great to have Scunthorpe and Glanford so close."
Ben's background is in kayaking but the chance of doing something different was one he fancied giving a go.
He added: "I've been playing for two or three years, but I've been kayaking for five so I've got experience of paddling.
"It's not a very well-recognised sport, but while I probably haven't done as much as some of the others who play for the Under-21s, it's nice to be involved.
"The fact we keep getting invited back suggests we must be doing something right, I hope so anyway."