19 February 2024

'Soccer in the pool': New water polo social comp launched in Griffith

| Oliver Jacques
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Water polo goalie with ball

Talented goalie Zoe Stimson does not let anything past her. Photo: Griffith City Council.

Described as a combination of soccer, basketball and rugby in the water, a new water polo social competition was launched at the Griffith Regional Aquatic Leisure Centre this month.

Organiser Clare Dodd, a school teacher and former representative player, says the Griffith City Council initiative will continue each Friday until the end of the season and everyone is welcome to give it a try.

“We are running it as a social competition; we run half an hour of skills training to introduce people to the game and half an hour of a scratch match,” she said.

“It’s open to all ages and levels and to both men and women. You need rough swimming skills; if you could swim 50 metres as a kid, you’d probably be able to give it a go.

“We are keeping it as casual as possible at the moment, just so people can give it a try. All you have to pay for is pool entry – that’s a pretty good deal as usually you have to pay an enrolment fee for any other exercise you do.”

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Those interested in giving it a try just need to present at the pool just before 6:15 pm each Friday before the daylight savings time change in April (when the outdoor segment of the centre closes).

“We had the CEO of ACT Water Polo Ryan McDermott come down and help us run it last week; we got 30 people, which was good for our first run,” Ms Dodd said.

“We are hoping to get some junior championships and even possibly the Australian men’s water polo team to do an exhibition match eventually, because our pool is big enough for Olympic competition.”

scoring a goal in water polo

Plenty of goals were scored on the opening night. Photo: Griffith City Council.

Water polo has had a reputation for being a violent sport ever since the infamous ‘blood in the water’ match between the Soviet Union and Hungary at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. In that game, Hungarian player Ervin Zador emerged from the water during the last two minutes with blood pouring from above his eye after being punched by Soviet player Valentin Prokopov.

“It’s got a worse reputation than it deserves. It’s a contact sport in that you do touch people when you defend, but we keep it safe and social,” Ms Dodd said.

“We let people have a rest; you can take it at your own pace. It’s not a set competition at this stage. We just number off at the start; we try and use the more experienced players to do the reffing and share their skills.”

She said the sport had been compared to soccer, basketball and rugby.

“It’s often called soccer in the pool but it’s probably more of a basketball type structure, where you set up in a D-shape. It’s a very strategic game where you do different types of defences. You need a combination of speed, skill but also use strategy.”

Guy gives thumbs up in pool

Dave Jacobs is enjoying the match. Photo: Griffith City Council.

Ms Dodd, 32, has been playing the sport across the Riverina for years.

“I grew up in Wagga and was a swimmer initially and got poached through the swim club. I played water polo in Wagga and Albury and represented NSW Country for a few years.”

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She has one key tip for new players.

“Get your elbow out when you’re passing the ball – you’ll get triple the amount of power if your arm isn’t in the water.”

Anyone wanting to participate in social water polo just needs to present at the Griffith Regional Aquatic Leisure Centre on a Friday just before 6:15 pm. Pool entry costs $7 for adults and $5 for concessions.

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