An elated Sydney Uni Lions have maintained their unblemished winning record for the 2018 OVO Australian Waterpolo League season, today claiming the championship trophy after a penalty shoot out.
Coming up against the most successful national league Club in the country, Fremantle Mariners, it wasn’t going to be an easy run to the gold medal.
Emotions ran high on the side of the pool with Lions Captain Michael Rosenthal admitting this was a long time coming.
“It feels very good we worked hard. Everyone this year made sacrifices and we developed Championship habits,” said Rosenthal.
“We needed to get over the hump of coming second. There was a culture shift where we started doing things right the whole year long and by the end of the season we had the confidence that we had done what it takes to win.
“After I missed the first penalty I had a sense of calm because I knew that Tony (Hrysanthos) was going to block some and the rest of the guys were going to make it…. it just felt like this was our year.
There were tears of joy from the Lions Head Coach Dusan Krstic, who echoed his team’s captain comments about building towards this win.
“It wasn’t just this year, we have been working for this over the last four years,” said Krstic.
“I am really proud of the boys that got through the season undefeated and then we won this gold medal.
“Our goal keeper was amazing, saving three goals in the penalty shoot out. To win a gold medal after 13 years… I am in shock.”
“I think this season we finally got used to each other, we changed the whole culture and we became a family… all the 20 players were treated equally.
“We had a long bench this year which was key, we covered every position.
“I didn’t like us going undefeated throughout the season as it could be a sword with two blades. I said to the boys we are not invincible we just need to play as we played the whole season,” he said.
The two arch rivals delivered one of the most physical encounters of the Finals Series and although the Lions took a small 3-1 lead at half time, the Mariners weren’t about to let them run away with the game.
Heading into the final quarter the scores were 4-2 to the Lions, but both teams kicked their attack into gear and went on a goal shooting frenzy.
Inside the final minute the Lions were up 8-7, but Mariners captain Joel Swift netted the final goal to lock up scores 8-8 and move the game into a penalty shoot-out.
Big saves in goals from Lions goal keeper, Anthony Hrystanthos, who won the Tom Hoad Medal for Most Valuable Player of the Finals Series, proved all the difference for the team.
The Lions took the gold medal ahead of Fremantle Mariners, with ACU Cronulla Sharks earlier in the day taking out the bronze medal.
OVO Australian Waterpolo League Awards – Men
Charles Turner Medal – Most Valuable Player, Men, Season – Goran Tomasevic (Sydney Uni Lions)
Tom Hoad Medal – Most Valuable Player, Men, Final Series – Anthony Hrysanthos (Sydney Uni Lions)
2018 AWL All Star Team Men
Tyler Martin (Drummoyne Devils)
Goran Tomasevic (Sydney Uni Lions)
Gordon Marshall (Hunter Hurricanes)
Jared Gilchrist (UNSW Wests Magpies)
Joe Kayes (ACU Cronulla Sharks)
Nicholas Elphick (Fremantle Mariners)
Nick Porter (QLD Breakers)
OVO AWL Finals Series Officials
Matt Martin, Dragan Bakic, David Geerie, Nicola Johnson, Andrew Carney, Adam Richardson, Daniel Bartels, Daniel Flahive, Nick Hodgers
John Whitehouse Medal – best referee in the AWL Final series – Nicola Johnson