The Clash of the Cats will feature in round four OVO Australian Waterpolo League, with inner-city rivals UTS Balmain Tigers at home to Sydney Uni Lions on Saturday 24 February.
In the second OVO Play match of the round, a heated clash between the sides will be live streamed from the iconic Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain as both sides battle it out for the Simms Shield in remembrance of Grant Simms.
In a top of the table clash between the women’s teams, Tigers will look to continue their early form through a combination of young players and their imports.
Tigers women’s head coach Phillip Bower believes this showdown between the top two teams will lead to entertaining water polo for fans.
“We just want to play really entertaining water polo. Sydney Uni is the benchmark. If we perform well against them we should go well for the rest of the season.
“We won’t get overawed by the superstars. They have a number of Australian players so we just have to focus on our game plan,” he said.
With the early part of the OVO Australian Water Polo League done and dusted, Bower pointed to a few players who have impressed him early on.
“Nioka Thomas has only just turned 15 (years old) and made her debut in the second round – for her to be playing centre forward with lots of minutes is outstanding.
“We look to our imports like Allyson [Hansen] and Elle [Surber] for leadership in the water and naturally they add a lot of speed and commitment to the team through their character.
“They’ve fitted in excellently and we couldn’t have asked for nicer girls in and out of the water. They have blended into Balmain’s family orientated way,” he said.
In UTS Balmain Tiger’s Sunday match against UNSW Killer Whales at Ashfield Aquatic Centre, Maeve Ryan, another 15-year-old is set to make her AWL debut for the Tigers.
Reigning champions Sydney Uni Lions head into round four off the back of a tough road trip in round three to Brisbane.
Head Coach Deb Watson, said the heat last weekend made for very physical games and this week has been all about recovery.
“The Brisbane road trip was tough, the water was extremely hot and it really did take it out the team.
“The games weren’t heavy but they were very fast. It was good for us to see where we are at with fitness levels and good for me as a new Head Coach working in with the new look team we have,” she said.
Watson said the team were looking forward to the Clash of the Cats match up, which shares a great rivalry that both teams enjoy.
“The pool (Dawn Fraser Baths) is like a Coliseum which is always great fun to play in, there will be real theatre and atmosphere to contend with.
“It will be an interesting game, I’m expecting it to be tight and heavy.
“Balmain have some really good juniors amongst their squad. The one thing you always know you are going to get when you play Balmain is a tough game.
“There is a great history between these two teams, that goes back a long way. But there are also great friendships and we always enjoy this game because we’ll be sure to enjoy a burger afterwards with friends from the other club and settle in to watch the men’s games together,” said Watson.
For the Men’s match up, a young UTS Balmain Tigers team will face a formidable opponent in the Lions, but men’s head coach Martin Callaghan is asking his team to apply their processes and trust the result to look after itself.
“During training we have put in a lot of work around defensive structural play, when we lose our defensive structure it is really evident in a match,’ said Callaghan.
“It will be a bit of a ‘Bradbury’ moment if we beat them, but it’s a matter of applying yourself and being committed to team structures.”
Callaghan speaks about his team’s youth and how they are in a building phase where they look to take positives from each match they play together as a team.
“We have a few junior guys coming up as well as a few players from other clubs. Pair this with the likes of Connor Martin and Matt Hannan, it is a good blend within the team.
“Our other strong advantage is James Clarke in goals. It makes up a lot of your defensive sins, he is a good key stone to have defensively,” he said.
The Sydney University Lions men’s team are coming off a successful Brisbane road trip where they claimed all four matches with an impressive 68 goals for and 25 against.
However, the Lions head coach Dusan Krstic will not be taking past form for granted.
“We are really well prepared and we are trying not to underestimate any team. Last season we lost one game against the Tigers as well as playing at Dawn Fraser Baths it is always hard.
“They have a pretty young team which is good for Australian water polo and the key for us will be using the experience within our team to our advantage,” he said.
Get along to Dawn Fraser Baths on Saturday 24 February from 2:00pm AEDT for the Women’s match and 3:15pm AEDT for the Men’s match.
WATCH all the action LIVE on OVO Play – click here.
To view full fixtures and results for this weekend, click here.