THE future of the Melville Water Polo Club appears in good hands after seven of its juniors helped power Australia’s Under-18 team to gold at the Pan Pacific Youth Water Polo Festival in Auckland last month.
Competing as the Australian Youth Barbarians, Matt Quinn, John Hedges, Nic McMahon, Lachlan Benetti, Toby Muir, Cody Smith and captain Hamish Blair comprised nearly half of the 15-man squad that capped its undefeated tournament with a 7-6 victory over Marist Red in the grand final.
The team tuned up for the Under-18 competition by testing themselves against the bigger bodies in the Under-20 tournament, where they finished a respectable fifth.
“It was physically tiring playing in two tournaments in a row but having the Under-20s first probably put us in good stead for the Under-18s,” Blair said.
“We played against some pretty physical teams and that definitely helped us |out in the Under-18 |grand final when we really needed to step up.”
After cruising through the round robin stage of the tournament, the Australian Youth Barbarians beat Tauranga 8-7 to set up a grand final clash with Marist Red.
“The first quarter we were up 3-1 and we went into three-quarter time ahead 6-5,” Blair said.
“They drew even with about a minute to go and then Lachie Benetti scored from about 8m out with 30 seconds to play.
Goalkeeper Hedges made two difficult saves in the dying seconds to close out the game and secure gold for the boys, many of whom hope to one day follow in the footsteps of the likes of Melville players Aaron Younger and Joel Swift and represent Australia at the Olympics.
“There’s obviously a long way to go – some of us won’t be looking at the Olympics until 2024 – but there is a great culture here at Melville,” Blair said.
“There are a lot of Olympians around to learn from and that is probably the reason some of the boys’ have set their goals so high.”