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Sharks finish eighth after defeat to Serbia

4 August 2013

WATER POLO: Australia’s men’s water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, have finished their campaign on a sour note going down to Serbia 13-7 in their seventh versus eighth classification game at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

The Sharks were gallant in the opening half pushing Serbia to 4-5 at the main break, only to see the Europeans inflict a horror run of eight goals to three to consign Australia to eighth place.

Despite recording their best place finish at a FINA World Championship since 2003, the Sharks will see the final result as the one that got away.

After their heartbreaking extra time defeat to Croatia in the quarter-finals, the Australians struggled to recapture their best form against Greece and Serbia.

Head coach Elvis Fatovic was left to rue the missed chances, but believed his team had made great inroads on their European rivals.

“We played really well until the quarter-finals. After that I was a little bit disappointed with my team. After this championship we are one step closer to the European teams, as we have played against great teams. Our goal was to play well and we did very well for five games. We had a hard group with no easy games, so now my players are really tired,” Fatovic said.

“Today we played a good first half when we still had enough energy to competing against Serbia. However Serbia was able to convert their opportunities from our bad mistakes and won the game easily.

“I am satisfied with our presentation in the first five games but unfortunately after our game against Croatia we could not maintain our intensity and consistency.
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Sharks skipper Rhys Howden was equally dejected by the team’s 13-7 loss and said the boys deserved better after their gruelling feats in Europe and Barcelona.

"Unfortunately we didn’t achieve the win we wanting to give ourselves a better end to our seven week tour," Howden said.

“They were a much better team on the day with their defence working overtime to stop our attempts. We lacked everything in attack and it's very disappointing finish this way.”

Howden was again one of the standouts for Australia bagging two goals, while centre forward Joel Swift furthered his credentials as a player of the future with two powerful strikes at the two metres.

The Australians will now regroup and begin preparations for their three year journey to Rio 2016, with many lessons to be learnt from the world championships.

London Olympian Johnno Cotterill admitted the Sharks may have got ahead of themselves after the quarter-final loss to Croatia, but was confident the team would be better for the experience.

“In this championship we could have beaten Croatia and in the semi-finals we would have faced Hungary, against whom we tied previously, so we saw ourselves in the final. The defeat really hurt us. In the last two games we lost respect in ourselves but we have three years from now to improve as a new team,” Cotterill said.

In the final men’s results, Hungary claimed their third world title with victory over Montenegro, while Croatia defeated Italy for the bronze.

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The Australian men’s water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, have failed to reproduce their stunning quarter-final performance against Olympic champions Croatia crashing back to earth with a disappointing 11-9 loss to Greece in their fifth to eighth playoff game on Day 12 at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

With their game usually grounded on solid defence the Sharks were a mere shadow of their self, giving away a 7-4 lead at half time with the normally reliable James Clark switched for fellow keeper Joel Dennerley at 3:20 in the second term.

The loss sees the Sharks relegated to the seventh versus eighth classification game where they will take on a shell-shocked Serbia who tumbled from their lofty perch as Olympic bronze medallists with consecutive defeats to Montenegro and Spain.

London stalwart Johnno Cotterill was gutted by Australia’s performance saying it was a big disappointment and believed it was a step backwards for the team after their strong results against Hungary and Croatia.

“This is the biggest disappointment of the tournament. We have played to a plan all tournament and today it failed. We lost our composure, started rushing and dropping balls — this is the first time we have not played to our best,” Cotterill said.

Coach Elvis Fatovic agreed saying the Australians had failed to recover from their heartbreaking loss to Croatia in the quarter-finals and did not play with the same intensity in defence.

“Unfortunately we are still in shock from our loss two days against Croatia. We started to play soft defence for two quarters. By the time we started to play better it was too late and we deserved to lose,” Fatovic said.

“We must strive to be more aggressive in our defence and without this we have no chance at breaking anyone.”

Greece had control of the first period with two extra man goals as Clark appeared to have an off day.

Richard Campbell and Aidan Roach scored either side of an Ioannis Fountoulis penalty goal to make it 4-3 early in the second, but when Evangelos Delakas, Angelos Vlachopoulos and Kyriakos Pontikeas stretched the score to 7-3 Australia was on the back foot and Dennerley was subbed in.

Campbell did his best to inspire his troops with his second of the game and 10th of the tournament with a strike late in the half, and when Jarrod Gilchrist converted from the right post and Aaron Younger netted in extra man the margin was back to 7-6.

Rhys Howden then stepped up to the plate with a goal after a time out to equalise at 7-7 midway through the third.

The intensity continued with the two teams trading blows. A pair to Greece was split by Gilchrist’s second for 9-8 at three-quarter time, only for Younger to equalise soon after to make it 9-9 - but that’s where it ended for the Aussies.

A series of errors by Australia and consecutive goals to Delakas and Vlachopoulos saw Greece resume control at 11-9 to seal the game.

Captain Howden said Australia would have to lift again if they were to finish the tournament on a high.

“We battled our way back into the game but too many silly lapses in concentration cost us at both ends of the pool. We now have one more game to focus on and try and get a good result,” Howden said.

Australia’s game versus Serbia is at 11pm on Saturday night AEST, with the Aussie Stingers gold medal final against Spain at 6.15am on Saturday morning AEST.

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Brilliant Sharks lose quarter-final thriller

WATER POLO:A coat of paint has separated the Australian men's water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, from one of the greatest victories in World Championships history, eventually going down to Olympic champions Croatia 7-6 in extra-time in their quarter-final showdown, after Sharks vice-captain Richie Campbell hit the right post on extra-man attack with 18 seconds remaining in normal time.

Australia had earlier led 4-2 and 5-3 minutes into the deciding term, but as all good champions do Croatia responded and equalised at 5-5 only to see Campbell's last ditch strike scrape the upright to send the game into extra time.

The match was there for the taking in extra-minutes and despite trailing 6-5, Australia rallied through a neat conversion by Campbell on eight metres to square things up, but that’s where the fairy-tale ended.

After a double exclusion and a second Australian exclusion, Petar Muslim delighted the Croatian supporters when he accepted a rebound off Sandro Sukno to steal the lead at 7-6 with 0:54 remaining.

The Sharks had one last chance to equalise after back-to-back timeouts – the second a dubious call given Australia had already used their three time outs – but Croatia's defence held strong as the Sharks attack failed to fire.

On paper the quarter-final loss will read as the one that got away. The Sharks will now play Greece in their fifth to eight playoff game, while Croatia advances to the semi-finals against Hungary.

But for most Australians the result is a statement that our boys are here to play! Australia’s Croatian coach Elvis Fatovic said he was ecstatic with the team's performance, and whilst gutted at the end score, believed it was a feather in their cap to push the Olympic champions all the way.

“I am very proud with the game. We had great defence against the Olympic gold medallists who are one of the best attacking teams in the world. We didn’t have much luck in the last quarter and on some occasions experience is very important. But we are on the right path to finish the world championships in a good position and all in all I’m so proud of the team’s performance,” Fatovic said.

Billy Miller top scored with two goals, with captain Rhys Howden, Aaron Younger, Aidan Roach and Campbell also finding the back of the net.

Australia’s 5th-8th clash against Greece is at 1130pm on Thursday evening AEST, with Australia’s women’s team, the Aussie Stingers, to play their semi-final against Russia at 4.15am tomorrow morning.

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Sharks progress to World Champs quarter-finals

The Australia's men water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, have produced their best performance in 10 years at the FINA World Championships defeating Germany 8-4 in the elimination round in Barcelona, Spain.

The Sharks led from start to finish to progress to the quarter-finals where they will play European giants and Olympic champions Croatia. The last time the Australian men qualified for the final eight was in 2003 - also in Barcelona - where the boys finished seventh, second only to their fourth place finish in 1998.

And the Australians will be brimming with confidence too, with the Sharks sure to receive an edge from their Croatian coach Elvis Fatovic. Fatovic was an assistant in Croatia’s London 2012 triumph, and while playing down Australia’s chances in Tuesday’s quarter-final, was happy with the Sharks’ win against Germany.

"Our defence was great. At times we may have even been too passive in our attack but this was compensated by our strong defence. We will try our best against Croatia but no team in the world compares to them in overall skill so I am worried,” Fatovic admitted.

Australia had the better defence, the better goalkeeper and better strike power and thoroughly deserved their win over Germany. Australia controlled the opening quarter through power shots from captain Rhys Howden and Aaron Younger, and when Howden bagged an early double from deep right it was 3-1. 

Germany replied soon after to make it 3-2, but that was as close as they got as Johnno Cotterill, Aidan Roach and Younger combined for three straight goals to make it 6-2 midway through the third. In that time Sharks keeper James Clark was sensational, deflecting anything that came his way en route to superb numbers of 11 saves from 15 attempts.

Germany rallied late in the piece to reduce the margin to 6-4, but with 2:22 left on the clock Joel Swift fired a back hander from centre forward, followed a minute later by a second to Cotterill to seal the game.

Australian vice-captain Richie Campbell was pleased with the victory and said it was satisfying to adhere to the game plan and stick to the coach’s tactics.

“We worked on our defensive tactics especially for this game against Germany and it really paid off. We did exactly what the coach wanted,” Campbell said.

Fellow Olympian Billy Miller agreed with Campbell saying defence was key to the win. "We have based our game on defence. Today all the team made an incredible effort and our keeper was amazing. All the matches are very important and we need to keep on playing in this way,” Miller said.

Australia’s quarter-final showdown with Croatia is at 1am on Wednesday morning AEST, with the Aussie Stingers women’s quarter-final versus Greece at 1am on Tuesday morning. 

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Sharks secure first win at World Championships

25 July 2013

WATER POLO: The Australian men's water polo team, the Aussie Sharks, have secured their first victory of the 2013 FINA World Championships with a scrappy 9-7 result over Group C rivals China on day four in Barcelona, Spain.

It was a tale of two performances for Australia, who impressed in the opening three stanzas holding the Chinese to just three goals with some steely defence, before switching off in the final period to hand the Chinese a rare sniff of victory.Coach Elvis Fatovic was disappointed by the Sharks' lack of commitment for the full four quarters, but was pleased with the level of intent shown in the opening exchanges of the game. 

“We started to play some great defence for the first three quarters, however we stopped playing defence in the last quarter. We must improve our defence by playing to the final whistle and then the job is done,” Fatovic said.

Australia jumped out of the blocks early snaring a 4-1 lead and extended that advantage at half time courtesy of a double to captain Rhys Howden and singles to Richie Campbell, Aidan Roach, Jarrod Gilchrist and Tyler Martin.

A dour third term saw Australia increase their lead to five goals at the last break with strikes to Howden and Campbell and when Joel Swift converted from centre forward 30 seconds into the final quarter the Sharks were in command at 9-3.But that was the end of their dominance as China woke up scoring three goals in 60 seconds to reduce the margin to 9-6 with 5:17 remaining.

The Sharks bumbled their way to the finish line conceding another goal with eight seconds left to end what was a disappointing passage of play.

Captain Howden was pleased to get the first win on the board and was encouraged by certain elements of the Sharks’ play but conceded the team could ill-afford to ‘switch off’ against some of the more experienced nations including their final Group C opponents Hungary.

“It was great to get our first win for the tournament. It was an important win today after a loss the other day. The first half for us was excellent and it started from our improving defence keeping them to two goals. In attack we put away our opportunities and put them under a lot of pressure,” Howden said.

“The second half however we lost a bit of concentration and mentally switched off making basic mistakes. They switched up there defence and we didn't adjust quickly enough. 

“As a team we need to make sure we are switched on for all four quarters and adjust better to what is put in front of us heading into the next games.

”The Sharks’ match versus Hungary is scheduled for 6.50pm AEST on Friday night, whilst the Australian women’s team, the Stingers, will cap off their group matches against South Africa at 2.50am AEST early Thursday morning.

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