Lions return to water polo form with addition of Whalan

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Courtesy of Dave Lyall

The Sydney Uni Lions men’s team has a proud history in the National Water Polo League (NWPL) including three premierships in four seasons between 2002 and 2005.

They have boasted some of the National League’s greatest players including the competition’s all-time most capped player Alistair Visch (370 games) and former  Australian Sharks vice captain Trent Franklin, a two time Olympian and 350 game veteran of the league.

Inexperience in recent years has seen the Lions miss out on medal matches for three consecutive seasons, but a second place ranking in 2011 has the club confident once again.

Coach of the Lions, Damien Fanning, said many of the younger players from previous years had developed nicely and the return of former Australian Sharks captain Thomas Whalan from overseas had been a great boost.

“A lot of last year’s players have matured as individuals and having Tom (Whalan) come back has given us great stability.”

“He has produced greater confidence in the group and has helped us play at an elite level,” Fanning said.

With a full squad available for their opening finals matches against the Brisbane Barracudas and UNSW Wests Magpies, the Lions are confident of a high finish.

“We have beaten both teams in the minor rounds and have a good recent record, so we should be strong particularly if we concentrate on our systems, but finals are a whole new thing,” Fanning said.

Two first up wins will secure a semi final birth while any loss could mean a sudden death elimination final.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Uni Lions women’s team is also making finals preparations as they face minor premiers Cronulla Sharks and the KFC Queensland Breakers in their pool matches.

Although ranked sixth coming into the series the Lions were the only team to beat the potent Cronulla side this year and take great confidence from this feat.

Sixth ranked teams have a good record in the finals with Cronulla completing the feat in 2006 by going all the way to win the championship.

The finals series will be held at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre at Homebush with competition starting on Tuesday May 3 and finishing on Saturday May 7.