AOC: It was hailed one of the toughest water polo line ups in recent Olympic Games history and it certainly lived up to that expectation with unpredictable results, close matches and favourites falling early on.
For Australia’s men’s water polo team, the results of Rio 2016 Olympic Games have left them with mixed emotions, after failing to qualify through to the quarter finals despite having one of their most consistent tournaments.
Despite two wins, two losses and a draw, the points weren’t enough to qualify the team out of the preliminary rounds.
Captain Rhys Howden said while the result fell well short of the teams’ expectations, the teams’ performance was something they could all be proud of.
“The team was very disappointed not to go through to the quarter finals but I don’t think our result here has shown just how well this team has done at the Rio Olympics.
“Every single game we played we played with the same amount of intensity, same amount of professionalism. So in terms of that, we can’t be disappointed.
“Every game, especially in our pool, was either a draw or a win by one. That includes the Serbians who came into the Tournament being the number one ranked team having not lost a Tournament in the last three years, to just beating teams or tying with teams this whole Tournament. It just shows how competitive and how close the Games actually was,” said Howden.
Australia opened the Olympics against a new look Brazilian side, who used the extremely passionate home crowd to their advantage to take a one-point lead over the Australians, which was a less than ideal way for the team to open up their campaign.
Game two against European powerhouse Hungary saw an extremely physical match up as both sides left nothing to chance. The Aussies were fierce and had the opportunity to take the win in the dying seconds, but unfortunately had to settle for the draw.
They met Japan in the third match up which was a fast paced, swimming game with Japan bringing their unique playing style to the Games. Australia managed to get the win 8-6.
Current World Champions Serbia (who went on to win the gold medal) bought their A-game to the fourth match, their physicality certainly testing the Australian defence at times. The Aussies were not going down without a fight, but had settle for the 8-10 loss.
Like the last Olympics, it all came down to the final game against Greece. Australia has a good track record against the Greeks but on the day they were the better side with a 12-7 win.
While the results meant the Aussies didn’t go through to the quarter finals, Howden believes the Aussies can take a lot of positives out of this campaign as they build towards Tokyo 2020.
“The team can take can take a lot of confidence from the Rio Games and if the team sticks together going into the next cycle I feel with Elvis (Head Coach) re-signing on to Tokyo, we can only improve on this performance.
“Elvis has brought the Euro mentality and he really does know how to get the best out of every player. He’s tightened up our defence, he’s kept our counter attacking flair and wants to keep to our swimming speed, and we’re probably one of the fastest,” said Howden.
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