IT is easy to see why Taine Bird is considered such a promising talent as the youngster goes through his warm-up at the Northwood School astro-turf. The Durban North resident flings himself to the left or right of the goal with almost reckless abandon defending any ball being fired in his direction. Impressively he saves around 95 per cent of the shots during the session.
It’s his drive and athletic ability that has led to his call up for the South African U18 Schools outdoor hockey squad. He recently played for the national team in a three match series against the Australian U18 hockey team.
Bird, who played as first choice keeper, was able to pull off some incredible saves during the series, however it wasn’t enough as the boys from Down Under clinched the series 2-1.
“Playing Australia was always going to be tough but that said, it was a valuable lesson for us as a team and for me as an individual. The tempo and the energy of the series was right up there. I never really had a good series myself but I was proud of my general play and some of the saves I managed to pull off,” he said.
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This was Bird’s fourth SA call-up, an incredible achievement for someone who only began playing hockey in Grade 7.
“I’ve been selected for the SA U16 squad for two years in a row and I made the U17 side last year. Each time I get selected is special for me as there is nothing better than wearing the green and gold. It’s the best feeling ever,” the Northwood School matriculant said.
Bird, who has goals of playing hockey in an overseas league says he is aiming to make the SA squad for the 2020 Olympics.
“It’s great to have guys to look up to in the national squad like Gowan Jones (who plays as goalkeeper) and to have people around me that inspire me to keep achieving to the best of my ability. Travelling with the national squad to the Tokyo Olympics would be an amazing honour and it’s definitely a future I’m working towards,” he said.