Vaka Manu chasing 7th heaven at Waka Ama Nationals

By James Perry

Six-time National W6 500m Waka Ama champions, Vaka Manu, aren't ready to surrender their title.

New coach, Kimi Taliauli who took over from veteran Brad Anderson this year, says, "We don't go to just fill in for the numbers, we go there to win. Yeah, we'll be going for that title again."

The Open Men's team from Manukau Outriggers Canoeing Club will have some new faces this time around, although that is nothing new to them.

"It comes with life. But we've got enough boys in the club, in the squad to fill those seats up and hopefully do it again," Taliauli says.

As a team, they train between 10-15 hours a week in both the W6 and W12 events. Some also compete in the singles competition, meaning they could be spending as many as 20 hours on the water a week.

Vaka Manu, like many other Waka Ama teams throughout the country, will be training while many other New Zealanders are enjoying the festive season. Following their sixth national title earlier this year, Anderson said that is one of the keys to their success. 

As per tradition, Vaka Manu's J19 and J16 teams train with the Open Men's team. Some of the current men's team have graduated from their junior teams. The intention is to continue that into the future.

Taliauli says, "Squad training is the number one, eh. We've always had a big squad." 

Taliauli cut his coaching teeth with the junior teams and says they have created some depth within their club that should pay off in the future. 

There will be three J19s, and two J16s teams at Karāpiro in January representing Vaka Manu, and Manukau Outriggers.

Taliauli says they're just waiting for their turn to step up and fill in the opens, "When the old fullas drop off!"

Vaka Manu had somewhat of a setback at the World Sprint's Championships in Tahiti in July.

As defending champions from two years ago, they finished a disappointing sixth, while Taliauli says it wasn't what they expected, it was "A big eye-opener, not just for me but for a lot of the boys."  He adds they have come back taking note of their "ups and the downs." 

Their constant success over the years has inspired the next generation of paddlers, and there is a desire to see that continue.

 Heremaia Rosieur, junior coordinator at Manukau Outriggers Canoeing says they inspire all the juniors to be part of the club.

"The boys as young as 10 all stand back on the ramp and look at Vaka Manu and say, "I want to be them. One day I'm going to be there. One day I'm going to be there.'"

Kimi Taliauli believes they will continue to see their plan come to fruition for some time to come, "The club is in a good place at the moment. Yeah, probably in the next five, six years the juniors will just step up and carry on the legacy."