Gold Coast: Australian Men’s Water Polo team have kicked off their Tokyo Olympic Games campaign in style, taking gold at the 2017 FINA World League Tournament after an 8-6 win over the USA.
The ‘Aussie Sharks’ finished the Tournament undefeated after six days of international competition against USA, Japan, New Zealand, China and Kazakstahan.
The first major international event since the Rio Olympic Games, the tournament officially kicked off Trek Towards Tokyo 2020.
Captaining the Australian side for the first time, Rio Olympian Joe Kayes said today was an extremely tough battle and he was thrilled his side was able to get the gold in front of all the supporters.
“Tough was an understatement! It was all our war out there today and I was getting smashed – I don’t think I kept my head up for very long,” said Kayes.
“The boys played really well. We knew it would be a totally different game to what we played the other day against the USA. Our boys our wide were extremely dangerous which was really nice for me (in the centres). It was an absolute pleasure to captain these boys, the young ones, five on debut, it was good to see every game they picked up a lot and we saw that in today’s final,” he said.
Despite the USA coming out strong to take an early 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game, the Aussies didn’t let them get too far away, using the home crowd to spur them on.
“It seems to be the same old story with us, we take a few (goals) before we really wake up. Today we took it on ourselves to lift back up and we did well leading into the end of that first quarter and into halftime,” said Kayes.
A solid combination of experience and youth proved all the difference for the Australians in the final, with Aussie Head Coach Elvis Fatovic, pleased with his new-look side’s efforts over the six-day Tournament.
“We were pretty confident in our defence, and when you are confident in defence then everything is different on the other side. That was the key for us in this Tournament,” said Fatovic.
“We knew we had some players that could clear some opportunity in attack individually and as a team. I’m very happy with our improvement in defence for me in every team sport this is the most important thing. I like how we play as a team. The team spirit we have had in the last two weeks, I’m impressed with our senior group and how they approach this Tournament and how they support the younger guys,” he said.
The win has secured Australia a spot in the FINA World League Super Final that will take place 20-25 Junes in Ruza, Russia. The Super Final will see Australia go up against the top sides from this Tournament along with top teams from Europe ahead of the all-important World Championships in Budapest in July.
Final placings (top four qualify for Super Final):
The United States of America
Most Valuable Player: Joe Kayes (AUS)
Best Goalkeeper: Alexander Wolf (USA)
Highest Goalscorer: Jonathan Hooper (USA), 20 goals
AUS 8 USA 6
QT Scores, AUS-USA: 3-2, 2-2,1-1, 2-1
AUS: Pavillard, Luke (2); Kayes, Joe (2); Cotterill, Johnno (2); Fannon, James (1); Brooks, Nicholas (1)
AUSTRALIA: Ed Slade (GK), Luke Pavillard, Tim Putt, Joe Kayes, Nathan Power, Andrew Ford, Jarrod Gilchrist, John Cotterill, Rhys Holden, James Fannon, Lachlan Hollis, Nicholas Brooks, Anthony Hrysanthos. Head Coach: Elvis Fatovic.
USA: McConnell, Nolan (1); Daube, Hannes (1); DeTrane, Matthew (1); Hooper, Jonathan (2); Roelse, Alex (1)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Alexander Wolf (Goal Keeper), Nolan McConnell, Hannes Daube, Alexander Obert, Matthew De Trane, Johnathan Hooper, Maxwell Irving, Nicholas Carniglia, Jacob Ehrhardt, Ashworth Molthen, Alex Roelse, Marko Vavic, Zackery Rhodes. Head Coach: Dejan Udovicic.