Offbeat No river? No problem! Desert canoe polo players turn to the pool in Alice Springs

18:47  04 february  2018
18:47  04 february  2018 Source:   ABC News

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Canoe polo players in Alice Springs© ABC News: Claire Campbell Canoe polo players in Alice Springs It is the Australian equivalent of the Jamaican bob-sled team, a canoe club in the middle of the desert.

Alice Springs is one of the driest places in the world and the only permanent body of water in the iconic outback town is the local pool.

But that has not stopped a determined group of canoe polo players from making a splash in the sport. They are now gearing up to enter a national competition for the first time.

Central Desert Canoe Club president Benjamin Erin said people were often surprised to hear Alice Springs had an active canoe polo team.

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"We're playing on the pool but the skills you learn you can take out to the rivers, you can take out to white water.

"So it's a great way for people who miss the water, living in the desert, to stay involved with it."

Alice Springs is a transient town, filled with shift workers and people who work remotely.

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The club tries to accommodate that by having a very relaxed approach to training.

And in typical Territory style, the rules and style of play are a little different to the eastern states.

"We're very inclusive, we have people from all different ages and backgrounds and experience levels and that's something that we really value."

The club has been around in Alice Springs since the early 1980s — about the same time the sport took off nationally — and was considered an early adopter of the game.

Canoe polo sign in Alice Springs© ABC News: Claire Campbell Canoe polo sign in Alice Springs Some 30 years later, the team is hoping to enter the national competition for the first time.

Club secretary Cheryl Baker first became involved with the club nine years ago because she wanted to go paddling in Antarctica.

While that experience could not be more different to paddling in the red centre, she said she loved coming along every week.

"We can be a bit loose with the rules and that encourages the social aspect," she said.

"But when we thought about going to the nationals, we thought well we don't really know the rules, we don't really know how people play.

"So the best thing we can do is get a little bit more in tune with how it's played."

New Zealand Paddle Ferns player and world champion Erin Moore travelled to Alice Springs this weekend to help the club better understand the rules, develop their skills and train six new coaches.

"But then got told by another friend that this person was just yanking my chain and there's no crocs out here and we'd be in a pool.

"It's so good for remote communities having something that players from every different walk of life come together and they're all the same on the water."

Northern Territory prisons at record levels of overcrowding .
The Alice Springs prison is more than 20 per cent over its design capacity and the Barkly work camp is at similar levels, February data shows. Darwin's prison at Holtze, which was almost full when it was opened in 2014, is now almost three per cent over capacity."NT Correctional Services is implementing a range of measures to manage growing prisoner numbers in the Territory's correctional centres and work camps, with prisoner numbers reaching an all-time high this week," the department said in a statement.

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