Plummer masters game

Water polo is regarded as one of the toughest of sports so why on earth would you want to start playing it again in middle age?

On the eve of the World Masters Games  to be held in Auckland, ANGELA KEMP put that to Franklin’s Jo Plummer.

Photo: Wayne Martin

Jo Plummer says she can’t see what all the fuss is about her playing in the forthcoming World Masters Games.

“It’s not like it’s a national side or anything,” she says with typical modesty. “Anyone can enter World Masters, so I do feel like a bit of a fraud.”

Well, let’s be honest, not everyone can enter the Masters and those that do generally have an impressive past track record albeit from their halcyon years.
Jo is a case in point. She represented New Zealand at water polo back in her 20s when the sport was relatively marginal.

Always a competitive swimmer, she started playing water polo while at Howick College and before long was selected for the Auckland and national under 15s teams. She enjoyed nearly 10 years on the NZ women’s team with monthly weekend training in Wellington.

She decided to hang up her goggles 22 years ago to concentrate on raising her four children and has become a successful Pilates instructor which she runs from a studio at the Karaka lifestyle block she shares with husband Mark, who is the head physiotherapist to Auckland Blues.

She spends around 30 hours a week teaching and has between 80-100 clients on her books including two other World Masters’ competitors, a cyclist and netball/basketball player.

“They’re a little bit older too and it’s great that it doesn’t matter what age you are, the Masters can still be competitive and give you another opportunity to compete at a high level.”

It could be Pilates will prove to be the not-so-secret weapon in a successful outcome for these Karaka crackers.

“What I love about the Pilates is that when I’ve been unable to get in the water I’ve been able to modify it to keep my strength training up. Wish they’d had Pilates when I played at top level all those years ago because I think my playing could have been so much better.

“I’m really hoping it’s like riding a bike and it will all come flooding back to me. It’s a tough sport and is probably still a minority sport. But a lot more kids are getting into.”

Jo says the attraction for her of water polo was that she enjoys team sports and that it is “just a little bit aggressive”.

She was invited to play in the World Masters by her brother who also played water polo for New Zealand.

“Now living in America he was home in November and said he was with a bunch of guys who were getting together to play at World Masters. He is now 46 but used to play in the under 18s team.

“He said I should play and he messaged a mate of his who was putting a girls’ team together and that’s basically how I got in. To be fair, I haven’t played any water polo at any level for two years and now I’m freaking out.

I’m swim training twice a week and encourage my kids to throw balls at me for practise as I am the goalie.”

Jo says she has played with most of the other women in the Masters’ team at either national or club level but they were training in other parts of the country as well as two who are overseas.

Jo’s preparations have included joining a social league at the Millennium Stadium on the North Shore but she says it is unlikely the Masters’ side will play as a team before match time.

Although Pilates has kept her strong, she compares entering the Masters as doing a year of power walking before running a marathon. The couple’s children are all sporty and Jo is looking forward to showing them her competitive side.

“This will show them you can be any age and still be fit and active and make high end teams if you put your mind to it.

Jo said a huge motivation was the recent death of a former team mate from a brain tumour. “She was meant to be our manager so it’s even more motivation for us to honour her the best way we can because she would have been on the side line if she’d made it.”