This month the Brisbane Barracudas and Queensland Breakers competed in two fiercely contested local derbies; welcomed visiting team the Drummoyne Devils and for the first time hosted the NWPL Pride Cup match at the Valley Pool. In addition, the inaugural Pride Shield match took place with players from Australia’s three LGBTI-inclusive clubs in an All-Stars exhibition game.
The Battle of Brisbane saw the Queensland Breakers welcome local rivals, the Brisbane Barracudas to Valley Pool. The stands were packed as fans cheered on their team and as expected the competition was highly competitive. The women took the pool first and took a commanding lead early in the first half. The team talk at half-time rallied the Barracudas who closed the gap but the Breakers continued to stretch their lead taking the win 12-6. In the Men’s competition, the scoreline was tied for much of the match with both teams hunting for those crucial points. Much of the action came deep into the second half, with the last seven seconds of the third quarter replied. In the final quarter, an unexpected pause in the game broke the tension and helped both teams to reset in the final minutes. The Barracudas capitalised on several strong attacks and won the match 11-10.
We welcomed the Drummoyne Devils for Round Six and as expected there were four competitive high-tempo matches over the weekend. The Breakers men were first up and after 19 seconds of play got themselves onto the scoreboard. Throughout much of the first half, the two teams were closely matched, however, Drummoyne was able to take advantage of the extra-man and go into second half 7-4. Drummoyne continued to extend their lead and a crucial 5-metre goal turned the tide against the Breakers, eventually winning 12-7. In their second match, the Breakers men looked to redeem themselves and in another close, frantic, match managed to hold onto their lead for an 8-7 win. The first match for the women was action packed with 10 goals scored in the first quarter. The Breakers scored a crucial 5-metre in the second quarter and stole the ball several times to take the lead going into the second half. Intercepting the ball at crucial points during the Drummoyne attack, as well as red card helped the Breakers on their way to 14-9 victory. In their second match of the Round, it was a similar story for the Breakers who capitalised on several strong attacks to take the clean sweep, 8-4.
The women opened the competition for the Barracudas with two close victories for the home team. It was all square after the first quarter but with a crucial 5-metre early in the second quarter, the Barracudas continue to hold onto their narrow lead with an 11-9 win in Game One. Game Two was an even closer affair but with the Barracudas held their nerve and patience and held onto their one goal advantage in an 8-7 win. It was a tough day at the office for the men, who were missing key player Rhys Howden due to suspension. Drummoyne came out firing and took an early three-goal lead in the first quarter. However, the Barras closed the deficit to one goal at the start of the fourth quarter but were unable to take the lead as Drummoyne took the win 13-9. As in the women’s match, Game Two was a much closer affair with the Barracudas aiming to pick up crucial points to keep in the finals contention. Once again Drummoyne was patience in defence and attack and held onto their one goal lead taking the win, 6-5.
The final match in February was the highly anticipated NWPL Pride Round where the water polo community celebrated diversity and inclusion in sport. Playing at the Valley Pool, the Barracudas hosted the Breakers in a three-match extravaganza, which included an All-Stars match between players from Australia’s LGBTI-inclusive clubs, the Melbourne Surge, Sydney Surge and Brisbane Tritons. To celebrate the Pride Round the crowds were treated to pyrotechnics and fireworks making the evening a memorable one for supporters and players.
The women’s teams kicked off the evening in an evenly fought contest. More than three minutes passed in the first quarter before the Barracudas scored the first goal of the match and held onto a two-goal lead as the teams headed into the second half. The Breakers continued to attack but a combination tight defence and a great performance in goal by Gabi Palm kept the Breakers goals in the third quarter. However, the visiting team staged a late come back in the fourth quarter but time was against them and the Barracudas stayed calm and held onto their 6-4 lead for the win. In the men’s match, the Barracudas were after the clean sweep against their local rivals. As expected another high tempo, thrilling match entertained the crowds as the Barracudas sprinted to an early 8-4 lead going into the second half. A heavy defence by the home team made scoring difficult for the Breakers who managed to find the back of the net twice in the final two quarters. The Barracudas achieved the clean sweep winning the game 14-6 and took home the coveted Pride Cup.
There was an extra match to delight the crowds during the NWPL Pride Round. Players from the Sydney Stingers, Melbourne Surge, and the Brisbane Tritons, along with players from the Barracudas and Breakers, competed for the inaugural Pride Shield. Many of the players in the two teams, Pride All Stars and Equality All-Stars, have been playing water polo for less than a year but you would not have known that from watching the game. Both teams switched easily from defence to attack and it was the Equality All-Stars who got onto the scoreboard first. One of the biggest cheers of the night was for the Tritons first female player, Kyra Bellinger, who managed a get a fantastic intercept for the Equality. With a quick sprint down the pool, Bellinger managed to convert her steal and help her team to an 8-4 victory and taking home the inaugural Pride Shield.