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THE NATIONAL WATER POLO LEAGUE – MEN
The National Water Polo League (NWPL) conducted its inaugural season in 1990. In the early years the competition was dominated by the Victorian Tigers who won the first four championships. The Cronulla Sharks, from Sydney’s south, then started their record run of five championships in six years and this was followed by the Fremantle Mariners from Western Australia, who in 2006 set the record of ten consecutive Grand Final appearances – they won four titles. during this time.
In 2002 the Sydney University Lions broke through for their first NWPL title. The Lions successfully defended their title in 2003 to become the fourth team in NWPL history to win back-to-back titles. The Brisbane Sirromet Barracudas achieved their first win in 2004 while Sydney University went on to win their third title in 2005.
The Fremantle Mariners gained their fourth title in a record 10 successive grand-final appearances in 2006 but missed the medals the following year when KFC Queensland Breakers claimed gold for a first time. Wests Magpies also became a first-time winner in 2008 and Fremantle Mariners made it No 5 in 2009. The Victorian Tigers scored again in 2010 after a long time between drinks.
THE NATIONAL WATER POLO LEAGUE – WOMEN
The 2004 season saw the first year of competition of the women’s teams. A total of 12 teams competed with the Fremantle Marlins beating the KFC Queensland Breakers in the inaugural Grand Final.
The 2005 season saw 13 women’s teams with the addition of the Adelaide Jets. The Fremantle Marlins won back-to-back titles in 2005 beating the Balmain Tigers in the Grand Final and, in 2006, the Cronulla Sharks became the first team in NWPL history to win the flag from fifth position at the end of the home-and-away rounds.
Fremantle made it three from four in 2007 and a stunning four from five in 2008. The Marlins had to seettle for bronze in 2009 when Brisbane Barracudas became the third club to secure the crown. Brisbane proved it was no fluke with a repeat effort in 2010 while Fremantle Marlins made it seven medal wins from seven attempts — this time a bronze.
In the 2001 season the NWPL played its 1,000th league match when two of the foundation clubs, Victoria Tigers and Brisbane Barracudas played a record goal scoring match in Melbourne. The match recorded the greatest ever number of goals scored in a quarter and the greatest number of goals scored in a match. The 2006 season saw the 2,000th NWPL match with the clash at Sutherland Pool on Thursday 2nd March 2006 between the men’s teams of Cronulla Sharks and Victorian Tigers – two Foundation Clubs.
In the 2003 season, Rowan Woodburn from the Canberra/Hobart Dolphins scored the NWPL’s 20,000th goal. Also in 2003 two very significant records were established. Daniel Marsden, Sydney University Lions, became the first person to score 500 goals in NWPL competition whilst Andrei Kovalenko became the first person to score 100 goals in a season when he reached a total of 105 goals in an expanded competition format.
Olympian Greg McFadden, Cronulla Sharks, was the first player to compete in 200 NWPL games (2003) and Grant Waterman, also of the Cronulla Sharks, was the first player to play 250 NWPL matches (2005). Canberra/ Wests/Victorian Tigers’ Trent Birkett became the first 300+ player in 2008, having played 319. Birkett has scored 509 goals, second only to Daniel Marsden’s 663. Nathan Thomas (Wests/Sydney University Lions) is stranded on 499 goals.Alistair Visch (Sydney Uni Lions) was the second player to reach 300 games in 2009.
A total of nine players have completed 250 NWPL matches.
They are: Grant Waterman (Cronulla Sharks/Brisbane Barracudas); Craig Miller (Cronulla Sharks), Alistair Visch (Sydney University Lions), Nathan Portlock (Adelaide Jets), Daniel Marsden (Sydney University Lions/Canberra Dolphins/Balmain Tigers/Victorian Tigers/Melbourne Barbarians/Brisbane Barracudas), Rafael Sterk (Adelaide Jets/Brisbane Barracudas), Trent Franklin (Sydney University Lions), Nick Falzon (Balmain Tigers), Cade Wright (Balmain Tigers).
Taryn Woods became the first woman to 250 goals, having 260 in 113 matches. Fremantle Marlins’ Sharan Wheelock holds the record for most games played for women with 151 at the end of the 2009 season.
More than 1450 players (1038 men and 426 women) from more than 25 countries have competed in the NWPL during its 19-year history. The National teams of Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea have competed in the NWPL with the New Zealand Stingrays playing for five consecutive seasons.