The OVO Australian Waterpolo League returns for round nine this week after a two-week hiatus and will be headlined by the season’s second Clash of the Cats match live streamed via OVOPlay between Sydney University Lions and UTS Balmain Tigers.
These teams last met in round four at a sun-soaked Dawn Fraser Baths where the Lions won with two comfortable victories, 10-5 in the women’s match and 10-3 in the men’s match.
Both clubs have been impacted with players participating in various water polo competitions around Australia and New Zealand in the previous fortnight.
Sydney University Lions women’s head coach Debbie Watson knows how this period of high intensity water polo can effect an individual but is adamant that no matter the condition of the individual player her team can step up in the final rounds.
“In this two-week period, we’ve had four different groups with girls in the Aussie Stingers, U18 Nationals, Born 2000 camp and four girls left in Sydney to train with a couple U16 girls in the train on squad. It’s been very disjointed, but everyone has been working hard.
“For the girls who’ve been playing in the last 10 days I gave them the night off on Tuesday but they’ll be back at training on Thursday.
“I think they’ve got to have a balance and appreciate how hard they’ve been working, it’s important they get time to process everything because some might come back happy and some might come back disappointed.
“It’s hard coming back from big events to AWL and being able to refocus, so the focus for us will be making sure the girls enjoy turning up and playing, because even if things don’t go right then they will be able to bounce if they’re enjoying it,” she said.
“Our goal has to be to finish in the top six, but more important than where we finish is working on our combinations and extra man setup as well as enjoying our water polo.
Aussie Stinger Hannah Buckling and her back injury will be assessed at training on Thursday night and a decision on her selection will be made then.
UTS Balmain Tigers women’s head coach Phillip Bower gave his team one full week off with all players returning to training throughout the week and he is looking for his team to continue to improve.
“We’re going to do our best, we haven’t had a great season, and we’re still improving, but we will look to put as much pressure on the Sydney Uni girls as possible.
“They have three Aussie Stingers players who will be tired and we will look to exploit it as best as we can but they are three very good players,” he said.
In terms of goals for the Tigers, with finals out of the equation Bower was encouraging his team to keep showing improvement until the end.
“This year we’ve had a very inexperienced team which has meant they have learnt to prepare better and play against national players and quality imports, we should be a lot stronger team next year,” he said.
Currently undefeated and atop of the men’s ladder, Sydney University Lions will not be taking it easy in the last three rounds as competition for spots heading into finals heats up and for head coach Dusan Krstic he says every player has a chance to be in the team which plays finals.
“We’re still going to rotate and have 15 players on the short list, I’ll try to rotate all these 15 players in the last five games to pick the final team, but everyone has a chance for selection.
“In this break we have worked more on the strength and conditioning to be ready for the finals, we won’t have time in the next three weeks to focus on this so it was good timing for us.
“We are not looking to finish the season undefeated, if we got undefeated it’s because of our hard work, but we are not invincible and must keep doing what we’re doing. What matters is the last three days of competition,” he said.
Tigers head coach Martin Callaghan and his young side have been challenged with the Dawn Fraser Baths (DFB) now closed for the winter but continue to keep a positive frame of mind.
“The biggest obstacle we have over the coming week is a training venue with DFB now closed pool time is hard to come by.
“They are positive and understand the next steps they and the club need to take, it has been a hard season and in some way frustrating for them, but we go into these last four games wanting to keep a positive approach.
“I would like to see them keep their composure and approach each game like it was the first round of AWL, the danger is losing focus and drifting for the last four games.
“For me the way we have developed as a team and developed our game play has been a real positive, we are a young team, and in many games we’ve punched above our weight and hung in there,” he said.
Callaghan will be looking to give a couple juniors in his team more minutes this weekend but needs to wait and see how they shape up closer to game day.
To view full fixtures for this weekend, click here.
Can’t make it poolside? Watch it via OVO Play.
Sydney University Lions vs UTS Balmain Tigers
Saturday April 14, Peter Montgomery Pool
Women’s match 2:00pm AEST
Men’s match 3:15pm AEST