Palm trees, beach vibes and a laid-back lifestyle. Huntington Beach, California is home to some of the best surfing beaches in the USA, and also Californian Junior College water polo powerhouse, Golden West College.

Over the past few years, a number of Sydney University Men’s Water Polo players have headed to Golden West for a season to improve their game. Despite the chilled lifestyle, with an elaborate training schedule and winning approach, Golden West has proven to be a fantastic place for our athletes to hone their skills and maintain their edge heading into the upcoming National League season.

Most recently, Andrew Cameron and Cody Ingram played a big part in the Golden West Rustlers third straight CCCAA State Championship, with a 12-10 win over LA Valley. Ingram scored an important goal in the final to give the Rustlers their first lead of the match and Cameron was strong in goals. The win was Golden West’s 26th state championship overall, the most of any CCCAA program.

“Last year I was the second goalkeeper for Sydney Uni in the National League, so it was difficult to get a lot of reps in the water. Going to Golden West provided a great avenue for me to gain a lot of high level, quality game experience two to three times a week. This has really helped my game both in the physical and mental sense,” Cameron said.

In the lead up to the state championship, Golden West College ran away with the Orange Empire Conference Men’s Water Polo title (for the 30th consecutive season), this time defeating Orange Coast College, 16-7. It was the stellar play of the defence and goalkeeper Andrew Cameron in the second half that guided Golden West to victory.

The Rustlers surrendered only two second half goals as the offense for Golden West matched their output from the first half. The string of players to venture to the Californian College started in 2014 when Reed Cotterill joined the Rustlers. He was then picked up by NCAA Div 1 College UC Santa Barbara following a fantastic season with Golden West where he became the Rustlers’ second-highest goal scorer and all-time assists leader.

During his time there, the Rustlers had a 28-1 record. He led their team to a state championship and scored two goals in the 5-2 championship win. The next Lion to head to the Rustlers was Tom McJannett, joining for the 2016 season. He also produced outstanding performances for the Rustlers, scoring 44 goals in 28 games. Likewise, McJannett’s side also won a state championship.

Another Lion’s player who tasted success in the USA is Keegan Wicken. As a talented junior for the Lion’s, Keegan went to Long Beach State University in 2015, playing four years of top level US College water polo. In the 2018 season Keegan was one of his team’s highest goal scorers (24 goals) and was instrumental in his school’s first Golden Coast Conference Championship and their strong run in the NCAA Finals (their first appearance since 1991).

You can catch Andrew, Cody, Tom and Keegan in action in the upcoming 2019 Australian Water Polo League which commences in early February. The team have had a unique preparation this year with many of their key players not joining the squad until late in the preseason, however the group are enthusiastic.

Despite a slight change in the line-up, the Lions will have the target on their backs entering the competition as reigning champions, after an exciting 11-10 victory over the Fremantle Mariners in the 2018 Grand Final.

“Anything can happen this season, but we are definitely ready to defend our title,” Cameron said.

Click HERE for the full Australian Water Polo League men’s and women’s draw details.