If camaraderie is key to success in the sporting arena it is no wonder Joeys 16As water polo team has had their best ever season. A heightened focus on team spirit saw them clinch the school’s first pennant victory in the 2020-21 GPS/CAS competition.
Their history-making campaign yielded 174 goals and 34 against, culminating in an exciting win over Trinity in their final match.
Water polo convenor Mark Conlon said coaches Alex Neethling and Ben Tuite, both Joeys Old Boys, brought a renewed sense of enthusiasm and mateship to the team. “Because they came from Joeys, they knew the system, so the boys could really relate to them. They really got along well.”
That commitment was evident at training. Mr Conlon says the intensity of water polo practice puts even rugby in the shade; there is an enormous amount of swimming and leg work players have to complete just to keep their heads above water. Gordon Durie was the As’ most valuable player (MVP) netting 62 goals but he was also the team’s most consistent trainer, attending all 58 sessions. He was the embodiment of the maxim: the more your practise, the better you get. “He was not absent from training once,” Mr Conlon said. “It says to the kids coming through that to be the best player you have to work hard at it and have more attributes than just your level of skill.”
Gordon paid tribute to his teammates’ efforts and the steely resolve his coaches instilled.
“There was great teamwork and chemistry between all the boys,” Gordon said. “It showed with our defence. It was the best in the competition – we held three teams in a row to zero.”
Callum Wilson was experiencing his first season as captain. Initially daunted by the role, he thrived as a leader thanks to the faith placed in him by Messrs Neethling and Tuite. He said they placed a huge emphasis on communication within the squad and it paid off. “They were really big on team spirit. Before training we would have a good laugh. It wasn’t always serious, but when we needed to work we switched on.
“I tried to keep the boys up and positive, by getting the talk up and making sure everyone was on the same page.”
Above from top left: The 16As poolside with coaches Mr Neethling and Mr Tuite, Callum Wilson (captain), Max Merifield, Gordon Durie.
Max Merifield won the Convenor’s award for most improved player. A right wing, previously he lacked the confidence to bring the ball up the pool and would offload it to someone he thought was better than him. With his coaches’ support, Max turned his game around and became a major contributor to the team’s success. “It was a real highlight for me how much I improved and how much the team improved,” Max said.
He was also inspired by the team camaraderie. “I love the mateship. We all had our position and a specific role, so we all knew what to do and did it.”
It enabled him to branch out beyond his normal social network.
“I’ve got to know the boys a lot better and it’s really connected me to different friend groups. A lot of my teammates weren’t in the same friend group as me so I’ve got more mates now and better connections with people.”
Just 12 years ago, there were three Joeys water polo teams, now there are 10. The sport is booming at the College and with the success of the 16As the prospects for the firsts next season are very bright.
“Water polo is a sport all boys can enjoy,” Mr Conlon said. “You have to be fit and committed but the boys have a great time in the pool. We are really looking forward to 2021-2022.”
“I’ve got to know the boys a lot better and it’s really connected me to different friend groups. A lot of my teammates weren’t in the same friend group as me so I’ve got more mates now and better connections with people.”Max Merifield – Convenor’s award for most improved player