Sydney University broke a 13-year drought when they defeated Fremantle Mariners in a penalty shoot-out to claim the 2018 National Water Polo League men’s title at the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre yesterday.
Lions goalkeeper Anthony Hrysanthos was the hero of the day making three crucial saves in the shoot-out to give the Lions the edge. He was duly awarded the Tom Hoad Medal for Most Valuable Player of the Finals Series.
In a very physical encounter the Lions took at 3-1 lead into half-time. The arch rivals traded a goal apiece in the third quarter and went into the final quarter at 4-2.
Both sides cut loose in attack and with a minute on the clock the Lions were up 8-7 before Mariners captain Joel Swift scored to send the match into a shoot-out. It was gripping stuff.
Hrystanthos came to the party and the Lions maintained an unbeaten run with 19 wins and a draw through the season proper – and the minor premiership – a major semi-final win and a win the claim the title.
Lions captain Michael Rosenthal said the win was a long time in the making.
“It feels very good; we worked hard,” he said. “Everyone this year made sacrifices and we developed Championship habits.
“We needed to get over the hump of coming second. There was a culture shift where we started doing things right the whole year long and by the end of the season we had the confidence that we had done what it takes to win.
“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.”
Lions Head Coach Dusan Krstic agreed. “It wasn’t just this year, we have been working for this over the last four years,” Krstic said.
“I am really proud of the boys that got through the season undefeated and then we won this gold medal.
“Our goalkeeper was amazing, saving three goals in the penalty shoot-out. To win a gold medal after 13 years … I am in shock.
“I think this season we finally got used to each other, we changed the whole culture and we became a family … all the 20 players were treated equally.
“We had a long bench this year which was key, we covered every position.
“I didn’t like us going undefeated throughout the season as it could be a sword with two blades. I said to the boys we are not invincible we just need to play as we played the whole season.”
The Lions took the gold medal ahead of Fremantle Mariners, with ACU Cronulla Sharks earlier in the day taking out the bronze medal.
While Hrysanthos collected the Tom Hoad Medal, team-mate Goran Tomasevic won the Charles Turner Medal for the Most Valuable Player for the Season and was also named in the 2018 AWL All Star Team.
In the women’s final, Sydney University’s push for a third consecutive title fell one goal short when UNSW-Wests Tigers prevailed 5-4 in a tense final.
After finishing fourth on the competition ladder, Sydney University won their preliminary final and semi-final to earn a berth in the season decider. But they had to be content with the silver medal for 2018.
National Water Polo League – Finals
Men: Sydney University defeated Fremantle Mariners in a penalty shoot-out after the teams finished 8-8 at the end of four quarters.
Sydney University finished minor premiers winning 19 and drawing one match in the competition proper and maintained their unbeaten run through the finals.
Women: Playing for a third consecutive WNPL title, Sydney University lost 5-4 to UNSW-Wests Tigers after reaching the final from fourth position.