21.07.2008 – Graham Croker

Damien Fanning, one of the most successful coaches in National Water Polo League history, has been called out of retirement to coach Sydney University Men’s Water Polo Club in the NWPL.

Fanning retired as club and National League coach of the Sydney University Lions at the end of the 2006 season after 11 years at the helm – a period in which they firmly established themselves as the benchmark side in the NWPL.

Sydney University Water Polo Club president, Antony Green, said the Lions raised the bar in every facet of the game under Fanning’s stewardship, transforming itself into one of the pre-eminent clubs within Australia.

“Under Nipper’s (Fanning’s) leadership the National League team found immediate success in 1996 by gaining a spot in the finals series for the first time followed in 1998 by winning a silver medal in their first grand final appearance,” Mr Green said.

“In 2002 Nipper was convinced to put away his Speedos and the team responded by winning the title. During the period that Nipper was at the helm the National League team only missed the finals once and won three bronze, three silver and three gold medals. It is a record that any coach or club would love to have in any sport in a national competition.”

Mr Green said Fanning’s influence wasn’t restricted to the National League team. “At the same time the rest of the club was successful, with eight consecutive NSW Club Championships, numerous championships across all grades and other State and National titles,” he said.

“Many of the club’s players received their opportunity to play for Australia at both senior and junior levels on the back of Nipper’s coaching ability, cajoling and encouragement.”

Fanning’s involvement in water polo also included a long and distinguished playing career. He was a scholarship holder at the Australian Institute of sport for eight years, when he represented the Australian men’s squad.

He also participated in the 1991 and 1995 World University Games, winning a bronze at the ’95 tournament. During his 11 years as a player in the NWPL, he clocked up a mammoth 162 games and netted 349 goals.
Mr Green also announced the appointment of John Davie as Club Coach at Sydney University Lions Men’s Water Polo Club.

“John played international water polo for New Zealand for 13 years and has coached at most levels in the game,” Mr Green said.

“He has won an Australian National League title as coach of the Cronulla women’s team in 2006. John comes from a sports medicine back ground as a physiotherapist and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist who has worked with numerous high performance sports teams in New Zealand, including the Canterbury Crusaders in the Super 14 rugby competition.”

Mr Green said the appointments place the club in an envious position with a strong long-term vision and structure for continued success and player development.