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Cayden de Graaf, right, leaps into action to defend the ball. Photo: SUPPLIED

World splash for Cayden

Cayden de Graaf never expected to represent New Zealand on the world stage, but that is exactly what he’ll do next month when he heads to Malta for the 2024 Men’s U16 World Water Polo Championships.
“[I’m] still in shock this really happened,” he said.
The 16-year-old Hauraki Plains College student has been selected for the New Zealand Under 16 Boys Team.
“I reckon it’s gonna be an eye opener to me,” Cayden said.
“It’s going to show what I want to do and what pathway I want to go down.”
The first couple of games would be against the Netherlands, United States and Israel.
Cayden said he was preparing for the trip by fundraising and selling jackets online, and his family would provide catering for an upcoming sports event to help raise money too.
“Training of course” is another way he has been getting ready. Cayden trains at his club for at least two hours every day after school, but there’s a catch: it’s in South Auckland at the Mountfort Park Water Polo Club.

When asked how he juggles school, training and sleep, Cayden said he tried his best to fit it all in.
“It’s definitely a bit crazy at times. You end up doing a lot more school work at school, like you’ll stay in at lunch and stuff to get it done. You’ve gotta do what it takes.”
One motivator for Cayden was his love for the sport, and not letting his team down.
“You have to keep going, you’ve got people relying on you – and I love doing it. Why stop?”
His team was “people you won’t forget” and friends for life, Cayden said.
But the “best part of it” for Cayden is the support from his community.
“It’s crazy. You’ve got your team there with you, you’ve got your family there with you,” he said.
“The club’s so friendly and there’s always people there willing to help, and they’re always there putting your name forward and doing the best they can for you and themselves.”
One way Cayden said he had grown was the fact he was more willing to take on any opportunity.
“It’s stuff like that that gets your name around and helps you become a better player.”
“I never expected this. I was just playing the sport because I enjoyed it. It’s good fun.
“It’s taken me down a different path, that’s for sure.”
DETAILS: To support Cayden’s fundraising efforts and purchase a jacket, head to: