The athleticism, reach and anticipation of Sydney University Lions goalkeeper Anthony Hrysanthos was put to the test in a penalty shoot-out to decide bragging rights for the 2018 National Water Polo League men’s title.

In a gripping final against Fremantle Mariners at the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, Hrysanthos, who is also entrusted in front of goal by the Aussie Sharks, made three crucial saves in the shoot-out to give the Lions their first title in 13 years.

Hrysanthos was duly awarded the Tom Hoad Medal for Most Valuable Player of the Finals Series. In a very physical encounter the Lions took a 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. Hrysanthos 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 to 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 in the shoot-out 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.

The win capped a remarkable year for Hrysanthos who was selected in the Aussie Sharks Australian side early in 2017, competing in the FINA World League Intercontinental Tournament on the Gold Coast. He played a major role in helping the Sharks secure the gold. He was also a part of the National team that attended the FINA World League Super Finals, where they placed 7th; the Syracuse Cup, where they finished 3rd; and the FINA World Championships, where the Sharks finished 7th.

Hrysanthos also had a very successful season competing for the Sydney University Lions in the Metropolitan competition, where they finished with the gold, and the National League, where the Lions took out the silver in 2017. He was also selected on the Green and Gold team at last year’s University Games. And to cap if off he was named Sportsman of the Year at the annual 2017 Sports Awards presentation dinner in the Great Hall.

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.

The combined efforts of the men’s club and the women’s club led to them being awarded the Peter Kerr Trophy for the Club Championship.

Sydney University water polo is in good hands.