The victorious Marlborough under-16 combination. Photo: Supplied.

Gold medal for water polo team

The Marlborough under-16 girls side went one better than their silver medal last year, claiming gold at the national under-16 Division Two championships held in Wellington recently.

The Marlborough girls dominated throughout the event, despite the fact four of the squad were eligible to play at under-14 level.

Day one saw Marlborough take on Wellington in the morning and come away with a 10-3 victory, a promising sign of things to come as they have traditionally started slowly.

Second up was Auckland-based Seawolf with Marlborough eclipsing the northerners 22-3.

The following day the goals kept coming, starting with a 30-5 thrashing of Canterbury B. The afternoon game was against another Auckland club, Atlantis, with the girls being made to fight much harder for an 8-5 win.

In the semifinals they faced Wellington again, this time prevailing by 15-2.

The final was an all-South Island affair with Marlborough facing an Otago side who had dominated the other side of the draw.

It was expected to be a close game but Marlborough had no desire to come second again and attacked from the swim off.

Their intensity meant Otago were unable to gain any advantage, although the southern side had some bad luck with a number of shots hitting the cross bar, just going wide or being saved by the goalie.

In the end Marlborough came away with a 10-1 win after putting on a water polo exhibition.

Abbey Moody was named player of the tournament. Two Otago under-14 players were also part of the Marlborough squad.

Marlborough Under-16 girls: Charlotte Brown, Abbey Moody, Molly Glover, Emma Flanagan, Alice Paterson, Georgia Morrison, Evie Price, Hazel Glover, Siobhan Keay, Zoe Allibone (Otago), Holly Wright (Otago). Coaches: Alastair Keay and Glen Morrison; manager Lawrelle Morrison.

Abbey Moody shoots for goal. Photo: Supplied.

Water polo finals

The Government’s relaxing of the COVID levels could not have come at a better time for the local water polo fraternity who were able to stage their term three finals in front of friends and family at Stadium 2000 recently.

In the junior grade, the under-14 final was between Gladiators and Marlborough Magic, the two standout teams throughout the term. Gladiators came out firing and led 7-4 at three quarter time but, in the last quarter the Magic made a comeback to draw within one goal.

Gladiators’ Scott Keay was the top goal scorer, but his whole team played well as a unit, boding well for future representative teams.

The senior grade final was between Straight off the Couch and the Under-16 girls’ rep team.

SOTC comprised mainly under-18 former Marlborough players and were the favourites going into the game, but the Girls showed the benefit of training hard for the upcoming nationals to forge a 4-3 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter defence dominated as both sides scored just one further goal.

The third quarter saw SOTC prevail 4-3, leaving the sides locked at 8-8 entering the final period.

The final quarter was a see-saw affair. With less than two minutes to play the Girls went ahead 12-10, but SOTC replied with two quick goals to level at 12-12 going into the last minute.

The Girls scored again with 40 sec left on the clock, then SOTC levelled with just 12 sec remaining.

It looked like there would be a penalty shoot-out but no-one told the Girls who scored the winning goal with four seconds remaining.

Next term starts on October 21 with Minipolo 7-10 year-olds making an overdue comeback now we are back at level 1. If you are keen to give water polo a go, or want your kids to gain some water confidence prior to summer, please register your interest. Email [email protected] , information about Marlborough Water polo is available on the Marlborough Water Polo website.

Tony Azevedo, a five-time Olympian, and captain of the silver medal-winning USA team, shared his knowledge with some of the country’s rising water polo talent. Photo: Peter Jones.

US water polo star lends his expertise

The man widely acknowledged as the United States’ greatest male water polo exponent has been in Blenheim for three days, sharing his unique knowledge with a group of young players.

Tony Azevedo, a five-time Olympian and silver medallist in Beijing, held a three-day camp at Stadium 2000 from Monday to Wednesday, attended by 46 young players aged 14-17, many of who had travelled a long way to attend.

Twenty participants hailed from Marlborough, where the sport is growing at a rapid rate, the others coming from Manawatu, Wellington, Canterbury, Dunedin, Southland, plus one lad from Australia.

Tony has previously staged two camps in Auckland, but this time ventured south.

Marlborough Water Polo Club chairperson Martyn Birch was instrumental in getting the 38-year-old to Blenheim.

“Last year our coach took three kids to his camp in Auckland and it cost them a fortune, so we discussed the idea of bringing him here. Our head coach Alistair Keay talked to the Seawolf club in Auckland, who organised Tony’s previous visit, and came to an arrangement.

“Basically any profits go to them, we get to showcase our great facilities and our parents/kids save money and get to train under one of the sport’s best players and now a top coach.”

Tony, who in 2015 was named the Pac-12 Conference water polo athlete of the century, was only too happy to set up camp in the Mainland for the first time.

Lunch at Lochmara Lodge, waterskiiing in the Sounds, visits to wineries and whale watching in Kaikoura have served to grow his appreciation of what the top of the south can offer.

“It’s my first trip to New Zealand with my family [wife and two children]. My son waterskied for the first time in the Sounds, I was, like, co-pilot when we went whalewatching and the wine tasting of course, it’s been amazing.”

Tony has been impressed by the physical capabilities of the young athletes in his camps, both north and south.

“You have girls here who are taller than me and you have guys that are shooting the ball harder than me … then when you get to that 16, 17, 18 year-old competition you really need to be exposed to higher level competition.

“But what our company [6-8 Sports] emphasises is that anyone from anywhere, if they are doing the right thing and have the fundamentals, then all they have to do is work hard, swim hard and play higher-quality games and they can be as good as anyone else in the world.

“The problem is that we are playing so many games we are missing out on some of the fundamentals … that’s what I have emphasised. How a kid picks up the ball, how they hold the ball, how they follow through … a lot of these kids are doing really well and if they can continue with the small changes [to their technique] I think they can be great players … there is so much talent here.”

Tony suggests that what separates a great water polo player from the rest is the ability to be humble and confident at the same time.

“Confident, because you can’t go into a game or practice thinking ‘oh man, I’m never going to score’, but humble because it is the players who make their team mates better that are the best players. The ones that are humble enough to continuously learn.

“And also humble enough to take all the failures that you are going to have, and there will be a lot of them … you are going to get scored on, make mistakes. Are you humble enough to learn from those mistakes and get better as an athlete or are you not even going to try to fix those mistakes and never grow?

“The biggest barrier to success is your fear of failure … instead of realising, ‘I’m gonna get scored on, it’s OK as long as I learn from it.”

Tony also emphasised the fun aspect of his chosen sport.

“After the 2008 Olympics they did a survey of all the sports and asked ‘if you could hang out with one sport which would it be?’ And water polo won.”

When asked why he thought water polo was voted the most fun sport, Tony recalled his teenage years.

“Before the age of 18 I mowed the lawn in speedos, I ran a marathon in speedos and I went out to a date in speedos … there’s something about us having to wear this tiny little thing that gives us that bit of confidence, right?

“Why I think water polo is so great is that it’s a team sport, which I’m a huge fan of in general because you learn how to interact with others, how to build each other up and leadership. Also, the fact that if you play our sport you are going to be in shape. So physically you are going to become more confident in your body, in yourself.

“It’s the third or fourth-fastest growing sport in the United States because all the parents want their kids to go to universities and there are so many opportunities at good universities, through scholarships or just getting in because you play water polo and have good grades.”

Martyn is hopeful that Tony’s visit inspires the participants to encourage other kids to play water polo.

“We see polo as a sport that could help kids develop their off-season fitness for other sports and also improve their throwing abilities, if you can throw a ball in the water, then you’re going to be able to throw a great ball standing on the ground. It also raise’s water confidence.

Our MGC team is current NZ tier two champions and Marlborough under-16 girls are tier two national silver medallists, but we are keen to have more kids try polo.

“We live in a region that has so much involvement with the water, we need to ensure our kids have the highest level of water confidence.  The next Tony Azevedo could be going to a Marlborough school now, so the more opportunities we provide hopefully the more kids will give the sport a go.”

Just for the record, Tony confirmed he no longer mowed the lawn at his Long Beach, California home in his speedos.

“I don’t even mow the lawn any more, I’ve got a guy that does it now,” he added with a broad grin.

If you are interested in playing water polo, term one starts on February 5. Anyone from 7 to 70 is welcome to come down and give it a go. Contact Petra at Stadium 2000, email [email protected] or drop in and see reception at the stadium.

Water polo is talented teen Abbey Moody’s preferred sport. Photo: Peter Jones.

‘Throwing things’ propels Abbey to the top  

She has just won a national track and field title, and perhaps broken a New Zealand javelin record into the bargain, but Abbey Moody’s true sporting love lies elsewhere.

The 15-year-old, who recently completed Year 11 at Marlborough Girls’ College, is one of those fortunate sportspeople who are able to excel at the top levels of more than one sport.

In early December she travelled to Wellington for the national secondary schools track and field champs and came away with a gold medal in the junior javelin.

She finished over 10 metres ahead of her nearest rival, her throw of 42.42m awaiting ratification as a new NZ record. She also came fifth in the discus, throwing a personal best of 34.11m.

That PB and pending record gave her a “four-peat”, having set new marks at MGC, Tasman, South Island and now national levels this season.

Previously this year Abbey underlined her burgeoning potential as a water polo player, her efforts as part of the MGC team earning her most valuable player awards at both the division two senior nationals and the under-16 division two nationals.

Asked to name her favoured sport, there is no hesitation.

“Water polo – that’s my passion. I’ve just been doing it longer and I want to go further with it. It’s a team sport and is growing all the time. My ultimate goal is to play for New Zealand.”

She is well on her way to that ambition, having been included in Water Polo NZ’s “Born 2004” squad which has been set up to prepare a group of athletes for the 2022 World Champs.

Abbey’s interest in water polo began when she was just 10 years of age, initially playing flipperball for a Bohally team in the 2m pool.

“That was such a fun team,” she recalls, “then I started playing for Marlborough Girls’ and just went on from there.

“[Water polo] was just different to most sports … so much fun and you got to meet new people. Physically it’s a full-body workout and you have to be switched on mentally as well … it’s quite a strong sport, you feel strong in the water and when you shoot a goal or steal the ball it’s just an amazing feeling.”

She has also set athletics goals, one of which was a strong showing at the NZ schools champs, which she can certainly tick off.

Her record-breaking throw, Abbey’s first of the competition, followed some patchy training form, but she said her sport was all about what happens on the day. “With the first throw, if it flies, it flies, you’ve just got to see how it goes,” she suggested.

Not a fan of running, Abbey admits she has always been keen on “throwing things”, which led her into the field side of track and field.

“The first time I threw a javelin was in year nine at the MGC athletics and I think I threw it 16 metres,” she recalled.

“I came fourth that day but there was another girl there – Eleri James-Sitters – who threw it about 32 metres and I was amazed with the way the javelin just flew through the air … how much power she had … it’s sort of a similar motion to throwing in water polo.”

After expressing an interest on improving her javelin technique Abbey was put into contact with local coach Ian Carter who offered his help and has had a major influence on her career so far.

“He drives an hour into Blenheim and an hour home for our sessions, which are usually three times a week … and it’s all voluntary. He’s so passionate about the sport.”

Ian is not the only one sacrificing his time to further Abbey’s career, with her Picton-based parents Felicity Gardiner and Richard Moody often having to get up at 5am to drive her into Blenheim for gym then pool sessions.

She also mentioned the input of her water polo coach, Alistair Keay, who does a lot of research and is continually updating his knowledge of the sport. “He did a lot for the MGC team both this year and last year too.”

Abbey resides in Picton, where she attended Waikawa Bay School and Queen Charlotte College, in years 7-8, but faces a change of scene in 2020, having decided to attend St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland for the final stages of her secondary education.

The shift north is mainly water polo-inspired, says Abbey, with a higher level of competition available there and the national coach, Oliver Gibb, being based at the 1300-student strong private school.

Wherever the multi-talented youngster plays her sport she will be seeking that feeling that makes it all worthwhile, a feeling she knows well and wants more of.

“When you just hit it right and everything feels so easy.

“When you take the shot or you throw the javelin and it makes you happy and everyone else happy … it’s just the best feeling, so different to succeeding in other areas, knowing that hard work does pay off in the end.

“That keeps you motivated.”

The Marlborough Girls’ College team perform their pre-game chant. Photo: Peter Jones.

College water polo teams turn on skills

Burnside High School and Rangi Ruru Girls’ School may have come away with the main titles, but two Marlborough college teams thrilled local supporters with powerful showings at the South Island junior water polo champs.

The secondary school event was staged at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 from Thursday to Sunday, featuring sides from throughout the mainland. There were nine teams in the girls’ division and six in the boys’ section.

The Marlborough Girls’ College team battled hard throughout, spurred on by a vocal, supportive local crowd. They won their way to the final where they came away with a silver medal, losing 7-6 to defending champions, Rangi Ruru, on Sunday.

MGC were competitive throughout, peppering the visitor’s goal with a variety of shots but Rangi held their nerve, forging a two-goal lead late in the fourth quarter and holding on despite a strong MGC finish.

The MGC team was: Evie Price, Molly Glover, Dani Patterson, Emma Flanagan, Alice Paterson, Georgia Morrison, Laura Main, Charlotte Brown, Siobhan Keay. Coach – Alister Keay, asst coach – Glen Morrison, manager – Lawelle Morrison.

MGC player Emma Flanagan lines up the Rangi Ruru goal during Sunday’s final. Photo: Peter Jones.
MGC player Emma Flanagan lines up the Rangi Ruru goal during Sunday’s final. Photo: Peter Jones.

A Marlborough Boys’ College Composite team also participated and were highly-competitive, playing strong, controlled water polo across the four days. It was composed of players from MBC, Bohally Intermediate plus three from Southland Boys’ High School. Due to the fact they were a composite side they were only able to finish as high as fifth, which they did. After round robin they were placed third.

The MBC composite team was: Ethan McLeish (MBC), Alex Boyce (Bohally), Oliver Silcock (Verdon College), Harrison Milne (Verdon College), Jayden O’Byrne (Verdon College), William Rowse (c) (MBC), Finn Mackenzie (MBC), Dylan Price (Bohally), Ryan Marsh (Bohally), Isaiah Onolevu (MBC). Coach Duncan Mackenzie, assistant coach – Agost Radzik.

MBC were the only team to beat the eventual gold medallists, downing Burnside 8-7 in pool play. They played eight matches, winning five scoring 105 goals and conceding 58. Their three defeats were all by two goals or less.

In a thrilling boys’ final, Burnside HS downed defending champs St Bede’s College 11-9 after St Bede’s had led 9-8 at the end of the third period.

A Queen Charlotte College team also took part, winding up eight in what proved a valuable learning experience for the Picton-based school.

A recurring theme among players, coaches and supporters was what a superb facility the Stadium 2000 aquatic centre is for staging such a tournament.




7- 8: Villa Maria A 8 Queen Charlotte College 1

5-6: St Hilda’s 5 Otago Girls’ High School 4

3- 4: St Margaret’s College 3 Christchurch Girls’ High School 1

1-2: Rangi Ruru 7 MGC 6


5-6: MBC 27 St Bede’s College B 4

3-4: Christchurch Boys’ High School 10 Shirley High School 3

1-2: St Bede’s College A 9 Burnside High School 11

Alex Boyce from the Bohally team lines up the goal. Photo: Supplied.

Bohally water polo team claim bronze medal

Bohally Intermediate made the most of their debut in the South Island Intermediate Schools water polo championships, bringing home a bronze medal from the deep south.

It was the first time that the Marlborough school had entered the competition, which was staged in Dunedin from July 25-27 and had 15 teams participating.

In their first match they met last year’s champions, Cobham, and in a very tight match, finished with a 3-3 draw.

The following day they played four tough, physical matches against Southland Girls’ High School, St Hilda’s, James Hargest and Columba, notching wins in all four – 17-1, 14-0, 11-1 and 12-3 respectively.

The Bohally team who enjoyed first-up success in Dunedin. Back row: Jono Poswillo (coach),Ryan Marsh, Izzy Robertson, Jessica Bennett, Liam McIntyre, Scott Keay, Abby Van Grinsven, Paul Sell (assistant coach). Front row: Chloe Sell, Alex Boyce, Hazel Glover, Tilly Watts. Photo: Supplied.
The Bohally team who enjoyed first-up success in Dunedin. Back row: Jono Poswillo (coach),Ryan Marsh, Izzy Robertson, Jessica Bennett, Liam McIntyre, Scott Keay, Abby Van Grinsven, Paul Sell (assistant coach). Front row: Chloe Sell, Alex Boyce, Hazel Glover, Tilly Watts. Photo: Supplied.

Sunday morning saw a crunch match against last year’s runners up, Christ the King, a big, well-drilled team.  In a nail-biting match that Bohally led until the last quarter, they were edged out 4-6.  Despite only having lost one match and having the second-best goal difference, this result meant that they were relegated to a bronze medal match against Columba.

That match mirrored the pool stage result, with Bohally coming away 12-3 winners.

Bohally management said spectators and opposition coaches were effusive in their praise of the way in which the team played and the spirit and fairness they showed throughout the tournament.

What made the tournament result more impressive was the fact that they had only put the team together a few weeks previously after many of the players had performed well at a tournament in Lower Hutt a month ago.

At the prizegiving, two of the team were included in the tournament team (best seven players). They were goalkeeper Alex Boyce and team captain, Ryan Marsh.

The Bohally team praised the help of sponsors Agrivit Ltd, Lorraine Barrett First National and Marlborough Osteopaths.

Back row, from left, Alastair Keay (Head Coach), Katie Parkinson (Tauranga), Georgia Morrison, Siobhan Keay, Charlotte Brown, Molly Norton, Emma Flanagan, Glen Morrison (Assistant Coach). Front row: Meg Flanagan, Abbey Moody, Leilani Horan (Tauranga). Photo: Supplied.

Silver medal time for local water polo team

Marlborough’s under-16 girls water polo team claimed a silver medal at the national U16 girls division two tournament in Auckland recently.

The team, which comprised seven Marlborough players and two loan players from Tauranga, played superbly throughout the four-day tournament.

First up was Waikato with the Marlborough side’s fitness showing through, allowing them to win 21-2.

Next day they faced a tougher assignment, beating North Harbour (White) 5-4, slowing down the oppositions’ attack with tight defence.

Later that evening they played Canterbury B, tight defence and quick breaks taking them to a 14-2 win which propelled them to the top of their pool.

In the ensuing quarter finals they met North Harbour (Black) and came away with a 9-1 win. Next stop was a semi-final against Tauranga, which was won 9-6, setting up a final against the similarly unbeaten Rotorua team.

In a tight tussle, the sides were locked 3-3 at half time and Marlborough led by one at the end of the third quarter. Rotorua stepped up in the final stanza, scoring twice to come away with a 7-6 win, meaning Marlborough had to settle for silver, a top effort given it was their first U16 national tournament.

Abbey Moody, from the Marlborough Water Polo Club, took out the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

Coach Alastair Keay described it as a “great tournament”.

“The girls had a great time and would like to thank the coaches, manager and supporters who travelled to Auckland as well as all those who were supporting from back home, much appreciated.

“Thanks also to everyone who bought sheep manure for our fundraiser, Meaters of Marlborough for a great array of meat, Subway for providing lunch vouchers and Stadium 2000 for providing a great training facility.”

Five-time Olympian and silver medallist Tony Azevedo. Photo: Supplied.

American water polo star is coming to Marlborough

One of the world’s leading water polo exponents, five-time Olympian and silver medallist Tony Azevedo, is coming to Blenheim.

His visit has been arranged by Marlborough Water Polo in conjunction with Seawolf Water Polo Auckland.

The 37-year-old Brazilian-born American, who was nicknamed “The Saviour” at one point in his career, is considered one of the best American water polo players in recent times. He is a former captain of the US national team and won silver at the Beijing Olympics.

He will be running training camps in both Marlborough and Auckland. The Marlborough camp is scheduled for January 20-22, 2020 and is aimed at up-and-coming New Zealand water polo players.

Registrations to this camp opened on Wednesday, with 19 people already registered to attend the Marlborough Camp, from Otago through to the Manawatu. The camp is limited to 55 participants.

It is likely Azevedo and his family will be in Marlborough for a few days before the camp, sightseeing and enjoying the province’s renowned hospitality.

For more information go to the Marlborough Water Polo Facebook page or the Marlborough water polo website.

If you are interested in playing water polo please contact Jack at Stadium 2000, or come to the pool, on Wednesday evening between 5.30 and 8pm to talk to one of the committee.