National League Water Polo Finals
12 May 2014
WATER POLO: The UNSW Wests Magpies have won their first National Water Polo League crown since 2008 with an enthralling 7-5 victory over the Victorian Seals who fell just short of completing a fairytale finish to their inaugural season in the competition.
A match high six goals to Aussie Sharks vice-captain and National League finals series MVP Richie Campbell was the difference as the Magpies recovered from a loss to the Seals earlier in the week to become the 15th team in 25 years to complete the minor premiership - National League championship double.
The Victorian Seals trailed 3-1 at quarter-time and 6-2 at half time, but rallied via goals from Matt Gronow, James Woods and Dan Egan to get within one goal at 6-5 with three minutes to go.
On their first meeting during the finals it was the Seals who surprised the minor premiers to take a slender victory, and the Magpies were wise to the Victorians tactics today.
A physically demanding first quarter saw the Victorian Seals score first thanks to Gronow. The advantage was short lived with Wests star Campbell responding with a goal in the next play.
From there it was all Magpies on the scoreboard as Daniel Streets scored from the perimeter, before Campbell produced a seemingly impossible shot for UNSW to lead 3-1 at the first break.
The Victorian Seals opened the scoring again in the second term off the arm of Woods, however dual Olympian Campbell was at his best for the Magpies, scoring three straight to give his side a four point buffer.
The ability of the Magpies to convert their scoring opportunities also meant that the strong counter attack of the Seals, regarded as one of the fittest teams in the NWPL, was less threatening as UNSW opened up a 6-2 lead by half time.
It was all Seals during the third stanza as they halted the charge of the Wests Magpies, scoring two of their own from Gronow and a late shot from Egan. It was a tough quarter for the Magpies who attacked the Victorians with the same intensity as the first half, but simply couldn’t find the back of the cage as key player Jarrod Gilchrist was briefly sent to the blood bin with the score showing 6-4 at three quarter time.
Both teams held station during the opening minutes of the final period, until Woods found a gap for the Seals, who closed within one point of UNSW. The Magpies had been kept quiet since the second quarter, but Campbell quickly responded with his sixth goal for the game, restoring his side’s two point lead.
The Magpies weren’t headed for the remainder of the encounter, holding on to their lead to finish 2014 as top dog. Gilchrist, who was at the core of Wests defence, said the win was as tough as they came.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game. I mean it is a final so nobody is going to hold back. I think it was important that everyone contributed from our team and everyone got in there and did their job," Gilchrist said.
"Everyone knows everyone around Australian water polo. We're all mates out of the pool, but once you're in there it's war. Once it's all finished though we'll catch up with the guys. I know a couple of the Victorian guys. They will be disappointed now, but that's just how it goes on the day."
Victorian Seals senior player Anthony Edwards paid tributed to his team's gutsy display through out the finals.
"I'm very proud of the team and so is the state and our supporters. The guys are disappointed now but once we have a think about the game and the week we had everyone is going to be really stoked with how far we've progressed this season," Edwards said."
In the bronze medal game, the Sydney University Lions men outgunned the UWA Torpedoes 7-5. In the battle for fifth and sixth, Fremantle Mariners were too strong for the Brisbane Barracudas.
Sydney University's Johnno Coterill was name the Player of the Season, while Wests' star Richie Campberll was the NL Finals Series MVP.
UNSW Wests Magpies: J Dennerley, R Campbell, D Swinnerton, N Power, T Blewitt, D Streets, M de Gail, M Sessantini, J Gilchrist, C Wolohan, C Eames, P de Gail, L Reynolds
Victorian Seals: J Stanton, A Edwards, M Perrott, L Gavin, M Wise, L Edwards, J Ogilvie-Lee, M Gronow, J Barrington, D Egan, B Edwards, J Woods, G Addley
Result: UNSW Wests Magpies 7 bt Victorian Seals 5
Quarters: 3-1, 3-1, 0-2, 1-1
Scorers UNSW Wests: R Campbell 6, D Streets 1
Scorers Victorian Seals: M Gronow 2, J Woods 2, D Egan
Fremantle take women's crown
The Fremantle Marlins have taken a nail-biting 6-5 win in the women's 2014 National Water Polo League grand final edging out home side the Brisbane Barracudas in a thrilling spectacle.
Goalkeeper Lilian Hedges was the hero for Fremantle, producing the performance of the tournament to steer her team to their fifth National League title. Brisbane’s keeper Kelsey Wakefield was equally brilliant, as the standard of keeping was to the highest order.
Jane Moran was the first scorer for the Barracudas, shooting a cracking cross-cage shot. A reply from Fremantle’s Glencora McGhie saw a top left shot zip past the outreached arm of Brisbane goalkeeper Wakefield, before triple Olympian Kate Gynther converted a penalty goal to give the Barracudas a 2-1 lead at the first break.
Brisbane came out firing in the second stanza, challenging the Fremantle defence at every attacking opportunity. The Marlins’ goalie Hedges stood up to each challenge, saving a screaming five-metre penalty from the Barracudas' Ash Southern. With goals at a premium thanks to fierce defence from both sides, it was Fremantle’s Jessica Zimmerman who broke the standoff, equalising at 2-2-come half time.
Nothing could separate the two teams in the third term as goals to Fremantle's Gemma Beadsworth and Ebony Neesham and Brisbane's Moran and Gynther ensured the scores were locked at 4-4 heading into the decider.
It was a grandstand finish with the fourth term producing just two goals as neither team lifted on the gas. National League Finals Series MVP Zoe Arancini was the form player for the Marlins scoring a double to hand her side the lead.
The Barracudas stormed up the pool in attack, controlling the desperation of the situation, however the Marlins held their nerve to take an outstanding grand final victory with Hedges and Arancini the clear heroes.
"It's unbelievable. I can't believe it," Arancini said after the game.
"The girls played fantastic. We were so desperate in defence. The girls did their job. We were a bit shaky at the start but we overcame it and got the win which is amazing."
Result: Fremantle Mariners 6 bt Brisbane Barracudas 5
Quarters: 1-2, 1-0, 2-2, 2-1
Scorers Fremantle: Z Arancini 3, J Zimmerman, G Beadsworth, G McGhie
Scorers Brisbane: J Moran 3, K Gynther 2
Water Polo Australia