First National League teams embedded in history

This weekend’s much anticipated OVO Australian Waterpolo League Finals Series will mark 28 years since the inaugural Men’s National League and 14 years since the inaugural Women’s National League competitions began.

In 1990 nine teams competed in the Men’s National League when the Richmond Tigers overcame a strong-willed Perth WAIS side to grab the title of inaugural champions.

In a two-match finals series hosted in Melbourne from June 8-9, Richmond Tigers claimed the first match 12-10.

Perth WAIS lifted in the return match to win by one point 7-6, but Richmond Tiger’s higher goal average meant they were crowned inaugural champions.

Richmond Tigers 1990 championship winning player and current UTS Balmain Tigers men’s head coach Martin Callaghan says the competition marked a positive change for the sport.

“I think at the time the new competition gave us more quality games and allowed greater exposure for a lot more players,” he said.

Callaghan doesn’t remember too much about the games but is thankful for the lifelong friends he gained from the Richmond Tigers.

“It was a very good team we had back then, we played as a team and it was a lot of fun.

“At that time, it was a good water polo era and it is nice to have that memory with a great group of guys who I’m still good mates with,” he said.

Callaghan’s one regret from 1990 was not keeping the bomber jacket (pictured).

“I moved to Mullumbimby and because of the climate it rotted away.

“Some of my good mates from that team like Ray Mayers and Mark Grooby still have theirs and bring it out from time to time,” he said.

In 2004, the Women’s National League competition began with 12 teams.

The bronze and gold medal matches involved teams from four different states, Fremantle Marlins, Queensland Breakers, Balmain and Perth Comets.

Minor premiers Balmain were defeated by Fremantle Marlins in a match which came down to a sudden death penalty shootout and won by Marlins 9-8.

Breakers beat Perth Comets 11-4 in the second semi-final setting up their gold medal match showdown against the Marlins.

On April 18, Marlins claimed the inaugural Women’s National League with a 7-6 win over Breakers, whilst Balmain edged out Perth Comets for bronze, 5-4.

Don’t miss your chance to catch all the OVO Australian Waterpolo League Finals Series kick starting on Friday 4 May at Sydney Olympic Park.

Check out our complete guide to the OVO AWL Finals Series including tickets and OVO Play live streaming details – click here.

1990 Men’s National League champions, Richmond Tigers: Doug Cocking, Chris Stoupas, Andrew Wightman, Eddie Dennis (g), Adam Coffey, Ian McInnes (g), Martin Callaghan, Mark Grooby (c), Andrew Suttle, Julian Muspratt, Robert Hueston, John Purser, Matthew Wightman, Ray Mayers, Michael McNeil (coach).

1990 Men’s National League founding teams (as they finished on the table): Richmond Tigers, WAIS Torpedoes, Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Barbarians, Sydney Students, West Sydney, Canberra Hawks, Tugun Brisbane, Hobart TIS

2004 Women’s National League champions, Fremantle Marlins: Helen Finucane, Louise O’Halloran, Belinda Brooks, Sharon Wheelock, Luisa Chaves, Jamie Hipp, Claire Finucane, Kelly Heuchan, Glencora Ralph, Amity Campbell, Gemma Beadsworth, Katie Finucane, Stephanie Neesham (c), David Neesham (coach).

2004 Women’s National League founding teams (as they finished on the table): Balmain Tigers, Fremantle Marlins, Brisbane Barracudas, Queensland Breakers, Perth Comets, Cronulla Sharks, Sydney Uni Lions, UNSW Killer Whales, Victorian Tigers, Canberra Dolphins, St George Dragons, Southern Stingers