The #1 Post – In focus: the National Pathway

(23.07.2015) – The pinnacle of the Water Polo Australia pathway is about to get their taste of international elite action at the 16th FINA World Championships, the final benchmark event before the Rio Olympic Games, some 379 days away. The Aussie Sharks will fight for the last two remaining automatic Rio qualification spots up for grabs while the Aussie Stingers will be looking to go one better than 2013 where they claimed Silver.

With this in mind, we’ve handed the keys to The #1 Post to our National Pathways Manager, Matt Turnbull to bring you up to speed on our national pathway system, and the future direction for athletes and coaches within our developing pathways framework. (Tom Hill – Manager, High Performance, Water Polo Australia)


Matt Turnbull – The National Pathway Focus

The role of the National Pathway Manager is to look at the development of an athlete from a junior level, all the way through to a senior level water polo and the support mechanisms around doing that. Everything around the best way to support the athlete and coach (who provides for our athletes) is considered.

On the participation side of things, the role is about finding the right way to support kids playing water polo from a young age.

The High Performance vision for Water Polo Australia is a clear one, – to become the best water polo nation in the world. In order to achieve this we have to invest in our youth today.

The future of water polo in Australia is in the hands of our junior participants. This is why we are placing great emphasis on nurturing our junior athletes through a supportive and transparent development pathway.

A key initiative of this is developing the National Athlete Performance Framework (NAPF) for water polo. The first phase of this will be released in the coming months and its purpose is to provide athletes, coaches and officials with clarity of where they are positioned in the pathway. It also serves to show the process someone would need to take to be involved in elite representative water polo.

The water polo landscape in Australia has changed in recent years with the emergence of club water polo in the national competition calendar, which previous to this was state-based competition.

Both state-based and club-based systems have their own advantages and challenges and we are working to find a structure that will deliver both high performance and participation objectives. Collaboration between clubs, state based training centres and Water Polo Australia is crucial to the development of our elite athletes and gaining results on the international stage.

On the participation front we need to make improvements by bringing kids into the game at a younger age. Traditionally the majority of kids try the sport for the first time around 11 or 12 years of age. However our research has found that’s an age that kids tend to opt out of sports, so we need to get them at ages six to eight and teach them about the sport, which leads to increased chances of retention at an older age.

In order to be relevant in the highly competitive junior sporting market, we need to look outside the square and provide new and exciting opportunities that will entice kids to try the sport for the first time.

With this in mind there has been the development of a number of exciting new initiatives on the horizon for water polo in Australia. We are developing a range of products that will increase the sports exposure and promote participation. Part of this has process has been following the lead of a few key sports that have successful participation programs, and that has led us to explore the development of non-traditional grassroots programs.

A significant development in this area came a few weeks ago when we received a boost in participation funding from the Australian Sports Commission. These funds will help develop participation products such as; a national participation program, curriculum development, school engagement, coach training, equipment support and a dedicated website for participation, to name a few.

In addition to this funding, our sport is one of 30 included in the government funded ‘Sporting Schools Program’, which was launched earlier this year. The program will serve as an introduction to the sport of water polo through the primary school system. The government program is timely; as we are launching our own sporting schools pilot programs in select states later this year and hope to expand the program to all states in 2016.

In order to achieve our participation and pathway objectives, it is clear that we need to put a great deal of work into building a workforce to deliver on our goals. Coaches are key component in the process and require greater support and a clear pathway from WPA.

We will be launching a new and improved coaching accreditation program in 2016, which will provide the most up to date professional learning opportunities for coaches in Australia.

Together we can achieve great things.

Matt Turnbull

National Pathways Manager

Water Polo Australia


Wrap up: Tom Hill

If you’re a young Aussie kid looking for someone to aspire to and understand what it takes to make it, then follow the progress of our senior teams, the experienced and new players as they all have their own journeys. No one path is the same and no one path is easy, but no doubt there is one you can see yourself in. We are committed to the work being undertaken to give you the best shot at realising your dream and welcome the challenges ahead as we strive towards our dream of becoming the best nation in the world.

Until next time…be your best!

Tom Hill

Manager, High Performance

Water Polo Australia


About our contributors

Tom Hill

Tom Hill as High Performance Manager has led the WPA High Performance Program since the beginning of 2012. From playing AFL football and coaching junior talent programs to sports administration at state associations, state institutes, universities and national level. Hill’s experience extends to a variety of stakeholders. He also has an academic background in Business, Sport Management and Sport Law.

Greg McFadden

Greg McFadden is the National Head Coach of the women’s water polo team, the Aussie Stingers. McFadden has been in charge of the Stingers since 2005 leading the team to Bronze medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, Gold at the 2006 World Cup and Silver at the 2010, 2014 World Cups adding to Silver at the 2013 World Championships. McFadden represented Australia at the 1992 Olympic Games as part of our most successful men’s team which finished fifth.

Elvis Fatovic

Elvis Fatovic is the National Head Coach of the men’s water polo team, The Aussie Sharks. Hailing from Croatia, Fatovic has been in charge of the Sharks since the beginning of 2013 and thus far led the Sharks to their top performances in a decade at the 2013 World Championships and 2014 World Cup. Fatovic is regarded as one of the best left headers in Croatian water polo history, and competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Fatovic won the 2012 Olympic Games Gold medal with Croatia as an assistant coach to Ratko Rudic.