YEARS of hard work have finally paid off for local duo Nick Taprell and Lisa Hodder, who have been selected to represent Australia at the Karate World Cup in South America later this year.
The pair earned the nod after impressing at the NSW Full Contact State Championships last weekend in Sydney and are set to knuckle down for intensive training in the lead up to the September tournament.
RMA & Total Fitness instructor Frank Cirillo, who is also a coach on the national team, said for two Griffith fighters to make the squad is an incredible achievement given the challenges regional competitiors face.
"We have to travel to get to anywhere - six hours here, seven hours there - just to find a fight and get these guys ready," he said.
"It's very hard to get into the team.
"There's usually two from each weight division - that's all they can bring.
"For Nick and Lisa to be selected from a big pool of talented fighters, I'm over the moon."
Taprell and Hodder, both middleweights, finished second in their divisions at the NSW titles but did well enough just to be there, with the competition coming just three weeks after the equivalent tournament in Victoria.
Backing up with such a short turnaround is a tough ask for any fighter, Cirillo said, but that sort of commitment has been par for the course for Taprell and Hodder.
Taprell has had his heart set on the World Cup he was 19, attending every tournament possible over a five-year stretch in an effort to attract the eye of national team selectors.
"It's always been in my long-term vision," Taprell said.
"I've been training for about five years and it's pretty rewarding - it's validation at the end of it, to know that I'm going okay.
"But Frank, he's right up there with instructors in the country."
For Hodder, who was crowed the Griffith Senior Sportsperson of the Year for 2013, it's another key milestone.
It's also a huge relief - once before was Hodder selected in the Australian World Cup squad, but she was unable to take her place on that occasion due to a serious shoulder injury.
But she recovered, won every title available to her last year and recently earned her black belt to continue her rapid ascension through the ranks of martial arts.
"It was hard, all that rehab - I had six months off training, and couldn't compete for another 12 months after that," Hodder said.
"But this makes it all worth it."
Only two other Griffith locals, Nathan McLean and Leticia Franchi, have been selected the World Cup squad before.
Elsewhere at the NSW state champions, Melissa Sergi, Jack Bardney and Dale Mannell all won their respective divisons while Coleambally fighter John Cook earned a second-place finish in his.