The Sydney University Lions Men’s team have capped off a stellar season, winning the 2018 Australian Water Polo League for the first time since 2005. They made history in the process, being the first team to go through an entire National League season with an unblemished record, defeating the Fremantle Mariners in the final 11-10.
Sydney University captain, Michael Rosenthal talked of his team, “developing Championship habits” throughout the season and they put these into practice to clinch the elusive title.
After a tough match against the Cronulla Sharks in the semis, where the Lions came out on top 10-8, the minor premiers were completely focused on the task at hand.
Emotions ran high as they faced the most successful national league club in the country, the Fremantle Mariners.
It was a tight first quarter with the scores tied up at 1-1 heading into quarter time. With a loud support crew behind them, the Lions began to pull away in the second. Scoring two unanswered goals, they took a handy 3-1 lead into half time.
The Lions were able to maintain their two goals lead in the third, as the fourth quarter started with the mariners trailing 4-2. However the team from the West were not going to go down without a fight.
The attack from both teams amped up in the fourth, with both teams going on a goals shooting frenzy. Sydney University were able to hold onto a small lead until Fremantle tied the game up with less than two minutes remaining, to send the match into a dramatic penalty shootout.
Despite the Lions Captain missing the first penalty, the belief he had in his team mates to get the job done was evident. “After I missed the first penalty I had a sense of calm because I knew that Tony (Hrysanthos) was going to block some and the rest of the guys were going to make it…. it just felt like this was our year, ” Rosenthal said.
Lions goal keeper, Anthony Hrysanthos, proved the difference in the end with three massive saves in the penalty shootout. As a result, he was given the Tom Hoad Medal for Most Valuable Player of the 2018 Finals Series.
Sydney University coach, Dusan Krstic, was absolutely thrilled following the victory praising the efforts of Hrysanthos and the team as a whole. “I am really proud of the boys that got through the season undefeated…Our goal keeper was amazing, saving three goals in the penalty shoot-out. To win a gold medal after 13 years… I am in shock.”
Goran Tomasevic also had a fantastic game for the Lions, scoring 3 goals in the final to cap off an outstanding season. He was named the League’s Most Valuable Player for the 2018 season after scoring 55 goals from 21 games and was named in the 2018 Australian Water Polo League Men’s All Star Team.
The Sydney University Lions Women’s side also had a fantastic finals series. Despite finishing the regular season in fourth position, they fought their way to a fourth consecutive Australian Water Polo League Grand Final.
Experienced Australian representatives Keeja Gofers, Isobel Bishop and Hannah Buckling led the way for the young Sydney University side, first taking care of the Queensland Breakers, 10-8, in the elimination final.
They proved their worth as true Championship contenders in the semi’s after defeating the second seeded Drummoyne Devils, 9-8, in a thrilling match
Unfortunately the fairy tale run ended just short for the Lions. The Lions came up against the minor premiers, UNSW KillerWhales in the final. Both sides delivered strong defence in a low scoring affair and the match locked at 4-4 heading into the final quarter. With less than three minutes remaining, UNSW were able to break the stalemate and score the match winning goal leaving the score line 5-4.
Captain, Keeja Gofers, rounded out another successful season and was named in the 2018 Australian Water Polo League Women’s All Star Team.