Defending National League Champions return this weekend

The first instalment of the OVO Australian Waterpolo League is underway for 2018 and what a moment to reflect on the NWPL champions of 2017 and what new season has in store.

Our reigning champions UNSW Magpies (Men’s) and Sydney Uni Lions (Women’s) will kick off their OVO AWL campaign this weekend after a bye during a week one.

We take a look back on the build up to the big wins in 2017 as well as hear from the the Head Coaches from both teams about what we can expect for this season.

Reflections on 2017…

The 2017 NWPL displayed some really tight, gruelling games between both the Men’s and Women’s competition that were reflective of fierce competition and outstanding talent. The Finals Series was just yet another testament to that with all games coming down to the wire.

It was April last year and the pools at Pymble Ladies College Aquatic Centre were really heating up with months and months of preparation coming down to that very moment. It was the Sydney rivals that were up against each other in the Men’s competition, UNSW West Magpies and minor premiers, the Sydney University Lions. In the Women’s it was the Sydney University Lions with a line up of six Rio Olympians up against the Freemantle Marlins.

There was never more than a one-goal difference in the Women’s Final with both sides proving relentless. A penalty shoot-out was on the menu as scores were locked at 8-8 at the end of the fourth quarter. It took two incredible saves from Sydney Uni Lions to snatch back-to-back premierships for the Sydney University side.

It looked like a repeat of the year before as yet another double premiership for the Sydney University Lions was on the cards. It seemed to be the likely scenario as the Men’s Sydney University side shot out to a 2-0 lead against the UNSW West Magpies. The Magpies weren’t to lose faith and put together an unbelievable second half on the back of four powerful goals by triple-Olympian, Richie Campbell, to secure them a 6-5 win and the premiership.

With the standard of the competition last year in mind this year promises to be a really hot, tight contest.

The season ahead in their own words…

Sydney Olympic Gold Medallist and Coach of the Sydney University Lions Women’s side for 2018, Debbie Watson, gave her thoughts over what the new AWL has in store this year.

“I think it’s going to be really solid competition and very open – it’s difficult to say who is going to be the front runners this year.

“Many teams have strong squads right down to their bench – UNSW, Drummoyne, Cronulla and Hunter all have solid line ups. Teams that have the better goal keepers I think will feature in the top half come the end of the year,” she said.

Watson has stepped up from assistant to head coach this year and she was able to shed some thoughts on her new roll and the Sydney University side.

“While it has had some challenge in changing roles, I’ve had great support from all the players and the Clubs.

“We’ve had a bit of a disjointed preparation with many of our representative players in Australian team camps in addition to some players being transferred and taking time off.

“We still have a really solid squad and it will be an opportunity for our younger players to step up and work alongside our experienced guys like Keesja, Hannah and Iso.”

Sydney Uni Lions are home to Hunter Hurricanes on Saturday at 2:00pm.

The Head Coach of the 2017 premiership winning side at UNSW West Magpies, Andrew Yanitsasi is looking forward to the season ahead for his side.

“We have had a solid preparation with a lot of turn over in the team, which has allowed us to inject new ideas and players.

“We have players returning to the League after long absences like Ross O’Brien who is coming back after three years off.

“We are relying on a combination of local and our lesser-known imports to defend the title.”

UNSW Magpies are at home to ACU Cronulla Sharks from 1:30 – which will be shown LIVE on OVO Play.

Stay tuned into the AWPL for 2018 for some intense Water Polo action – follow #OVOAWL.

For the full season draw – click here.

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