Nicholson shoots for World Games glory

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Former junior water polo Australian representative and National Water Polo League (NWPL) veteran Scott Nicholson will become a dual international when he suits up for the Australia Beach Handball team at July’s World Games tournament held in Columbia.  

Nicholson, who has played over 150 games for the Sydney University Men’s Water Polo Club (SUMWPC) in the NWPL, was named in the nine man national beach handball squad after impressing at the National Beach Handball Championships in February and a national squad camp last week.

Nicholson’s meteoric rise in the sport of beach handball has occurred despite him focusing primarily on water polo. The University of Sydney Bachelor of Arts graduate and former Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) Elite Athlete Program (EAP) scholarship holder was introduced to beach handball by a friend and only took it up as a hobby late last year.

“Playing beach handball seemed like a great way to spend a lazy Sunday,” explains Nicholson.

“It sort of snowballed from there. The national coaches came to Sydney to do a camp and I went along to see how I would go. They asked me to play at the Nationals in February, so I joined a team where we had some mixed results, but did enough for me to get selected in the national squad that played two games against New Zealand.”

Unfortunately Nicholson was forced to make himself unavailable for both games and a number of training sessions with the national squad due to his Sydney Uni water polo commitments in the National League.

“During the last camp, which was held a couple of weekends ago, I was able to participate fully and I guess I did enough to show my wares and get selected.” 

While Nicholson is delighted with his selection in the Australian beach handball team the 24 year old is quick to point out water polo is still his main priority.

“Water Polo is my true love and I still have a lot to achieve in the sport – most notably winning a National League title and that won’t come easy, or without 100% dedication to the team and training. Beach handball doesn’t have the club infrastructure yet to allow players to concentrate on it as a sole sport at the moment either.”

While acknowledging that he has plenty to learn, Nicholson believes that his lack of handball (beach or court) experience hasn’t handicapped his development in a major way.

“A lot of the time court handball players have difficulty adjusting to beach handball due to the lack of contact which is encouraged in court handball. Furthermore my shot from water polo seems to have helped carry me a lot of the way as I have a lot of flexibility and power due to it. And playing with a smaller ball than we use in water polo definitely makes things easier.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, explains Nicholson. “I get into a little bit of trouble when my water polo habits creep in – like catching the ball and blocking with one hand instead of two – I’m getting better though!”

Nicholson is no stranger to international competition – having competed for the Australian water polo team at the World Uni Games in Shenzhen in 2011 – but he is unashamedly excited about earning the opportunity to compete at the World Games in July and August.

“It’s exciting to be able to represent Australia again. Even though beach handball isn’t my chosen sport – I still want to keep pushing for Aussie selection for water polo – I am proud of what I have achieved in a relatively short space of time and I hope I can make a difference to the team’s performance.”

Nicholson and the rest of the Australian Beach Handball team will arrive in Cali, Columbia on July 30 where they will come against Brazil (current World Champions), Russia (finished third at the World Championships) and hosts Columbia.

“The top two teams go through to the semi-finals, so if we can beat Columbia and have a bit of luck against Russia then we definitely have a chance to go through to the semis. The Australian team did it a bit tough at last year’s World Championships (not winning a match) and we are still a developing nation, so it would be great just to improve on last year’s results.”