Bendigo’s men’s and women’s water polo teams hope to rule the pool when the Victorian Country Championships comes to the Bendigo Aquatic Centre this weekend.
Bendigo hasn’t won a title since the mid-1990s and will have to overcome the might of the Ovens and Murray, Bairnsdale, Geelong, Albury and Wodonga teams to break its drought.
Eight men’s team will shoot for the title, with Bendigo boasting several quality additions to its squad which didn’t make the semi-finals last year.
“Paul McKenzie brings some experience, speed and skill to the team as a forward with a strong accurate shot,” Bendigo Water Polo Association president Bruce Pridham said.
“Jason Greene brings extensive water polo experience to the team and will fit-in in a support role.”
Pridham will come off the bench for Bendigo, which has a splash of youth and experience in the 13-player team.
“Ian Symons fronts up again for his 25th year of country championships, or around that,” Pridham said.
“He’s in good nick for an old bloke, he’s a utility. Ian’s 53 or 52 and he’s as fit as ever.
“There’s a real focus on youth this year in the Bendigo team with Tim Carew, Nick Swan, David Symons and Dan Carew sure to make their presence felt in the pool.
“It’s expected the Ovens and Murray will dominate the weekend. The Wodonga Pool Pirates are looking to reclaim the title after dropping to Northside in 2012.”
Four women’s teams will compete for the title, with Bendigo’s women in training since December.
“The Bendigo women’s team is looking strong, again with a focus on youth,” Pridham said.
“Lily Pridham is hoping for a good tournament after state representation in the under-14s last month.
“We’ve also got the Reade sisters returning to Bendigo after Camille had a stint in Sydney first grade and represented the Australian Defence Forces in the Australian Championships.
“Her sister Jacinta is also back. There’s a number of Bendigo juniors playing their first year in the senior competition – Laura McCulloch, Keely Scarce, Hannah Dobell and Olivia Arandt.
Bendigo are hoping for a top-two place, but the (Albury) Sharks are current water polo championships and will be hard to beat.”
Teams will play four games, with the top-two teams after the rounds playing-off in the final.
“The Aquatic Centre is still open to the public, we welcome people to come down and view the sport at this high level,” Pridham said.
“There’s a number of Victorian and Australian players in action across the weekend.”
Bendigo was made host of Saturday and Sunday’s championships in December after the Wodonga pool wasn’t ready in time.
Bendigo last hosted the championships in 2011 and more than 200 players are expected to be in action this weekend. Matches begin at 8.30am on Saturday, with the last game to finish about 3.30pm on Sunday.