The #1 Post – National pathways & competitions

This edition discusses development in key High Performance areas

(30.05.2015) – As the great cricket commentator Bill Lawry would say – ‘it’s all happening’. As May draws to a close and we enter the Australian winter, the sweet smell of an imminent European summer means one thing…its international season!

We have wrapped up our domestic season with a very high quality National League Finals followed by the 20 & Under National Championships. On the back of these events our Australian Born ‘95  (B95) and World University Games squads were put through their paces in selection camps, while our Australian Born ’98 (B98) teams have left our shores for Europe, and are currently gaining some valuable experience in preparation for the 2016 FINA Youth World Championships.

All of this activity in our pathway programs has generated some interest in what it takes to be selected in an Australian team but also what is the expectation to stay there. WPA recently released a National Selection Policy Clarifying Statement to provide some clarity on the changes made to the National Selection Policy earlier this year.

The key purpose behind the change in expectation of athletes is to provide a clear pathway for aspiring future Olympians. We see value in training in multiple environments under various coaches as it provides diversity in development.

We are continuing to work with the state associations to ensure their underpinning programs are of a high quality, are aligned to the national and respective institute programs and to provide the diversity in training that will have a positive impact on an athlete’s performance.

Spearheading the development of our National Athlete Pathway framework, which is closely aligned with a new Coach Education and Development framework, is Pathway Manager Matt Turnbull, who will provide an update of his progress in next month’s edition of The #1 Post.

Complimenting the work being done on the athlete pathway is further development of the competition pathway, aimed at maximising the quality and quantity in our domestic environment. After months of consultation with a wide group of stakeholders, the WPA Board have recently approved changes to the National Aged Championships structure commencing in 2016. The key elements are highlighted below;

  • Introduction of a Future Olympians Tournament to replace the current 20 & Under National Championships.
    • This event will be held in May with 40-50 nationally targeted junior players from around Australia drafted into 4 even teams. The Tournament will encompass training, education and competition led by National Coaches and their support teams to accelerate the learning and development of players targeted for future Olympic Games.
    • Players will be identified based on performances in the 18 & Under National Championships, National League, National Training Camps, State Institute and/or Underpinning Programs and previous performances in international competitions and/or tours.
    • National coaches will consult with coaches involved in the above events prior to finalising selections for invitation.
  • 18 & Under National Championships to be contested between state teams and remain in the April school holiday period. With an elite focus on this competition, teams eligible to enter are;
    • Men – 2x Sydney region, 1x NSW Country/ACT, 2x WA (regionally split), 1x QLD, 1x SA, 1x VIC/TAS
    • Women – 2x Sydney region, 1x NSW Country/ACT, 2x QLD (regionally split), 2x WA (regionally split), 1x VIC/SA/TAS
    • WPA will work with each state to determine and finalise how teams will be regionally split and selected
  • The 16 & Under National Championships will remain as club teams and in the September/October school holiday period, however a qualifying game played on day one will be introduced to determine championship, plate/bowl divisions. Teams will be ranked according to their final position at their respective State Championship competition held in the same year.

While acknowledging that these changes may cause some initial challenges, the pathway for players through club water polo at a state level, at Australian Open Club Championships and in National League is still a well-supported and structured pathway for players and coaches.

In accordance with these changes, we are continuing to work closely with the National League clubs in preparation for the new National League season, which will commence in November 2015, concluding in March 2016. This shift has been created to support the Olympic preparations of our national teams, the Aussie Sharks and Stingers, and will double as a trial for further potential change to our domestic competition structure.

The next stage of development for our competition pathway will be to update our competition rules and entry requirements to align with the aforementioned changes, with that information to be circulated among our stakeholders in the coming months.

In other related news we recently held a 2020 Planning Forum with various Australian Institute of Sport, State Institutes of Sport/State Academy’s of Sport and Water Polo Australia staff in order to look ahead to our plans beyond Rio (which is just 433 days away!).

Unlike other water polo nations, we operate in a unique environment; where cohesion is required between our clubs, state associations and state institutes and academy of sport programs.

The planning forum created a avenue for our key high performance staff to analyse where our program is at, what our competitors are doing and how we can innovatively capitalise on the resources we have at our disposal, as we strive to become the best water polo nation in the world. It was a very valuable day and I’d like to thank the attendees for their initial contribution and ongoing commitment to assist us in defining our future direction.

It would be thoughtless of me not to mention the upcoming World League Finals in China for the Stingers (9-14 June) and Italy for the Sharks (23-28 June). Although just a step towards the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia later this year, and signpost along the Road to Rio, the world league provides valuable competition experience, and for the Sharks the first shot at an automatic qualification for the Olympic Games.

I wish all the best to our national head coaches Greg McFadden (Aussie Stingers) and Elvis Fatovic (Aussie Sharks), as well as their merry men and women, I know as always that you will do your country, team and yourselves proud.

Finally I’d like to welcome the newest addition of the WPA team, Michael Maclennan who is our new Men’s Program Operations Manager and will commence on June 1. Michael comes to us from Cricket NSW with broad experience in coaching, pathways and administration and will be a valuable asset to the program.

Until next time…be your best,

Tom Hill

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.


April, 2015 – Parts I&II 

January, 2015

November/December, 2014

October, 2014