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Water Polo Country Championships: Geraldton men and women rally to claim titles

Derek GoforthGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton men celebrate winning the tournament.
Camera IconGeraldton men celebrate winning the tournament. Credit: Derek Goforth

Both Geraldton’s first-string teams came from behind to secure victories in the men’s and women’s water polo country championships on the weekend, claiming their second consecutive dual titles.

The women’s team, under the guidance of coach Corey Smith, rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Bunbury 12-10. Later, their male counterparts, led by coach Ray Pead, overcame a 5-1 setback to triumph over Mandurah with a final score of 16-8.

Geraldton’s men entered the grand final with an unbeaten record, securing victories in five of their initial games in remarkable style.

The weekend started with a dominant 10-2 win over the Geraldton 2 team, where Joel Cross and Corey Smith both completed hat-tricks. A robust performance from the captain and goalkeeper, Jack Deschamp, contributed to the impressive success.

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Subsequent matches included a resounding 22-0 victory over Busselton and a solid 14-6 win over Bunbury on Saturday morning.

Corey Smith added six more goals to his account, and returning player Lachy Toomath secured his initial hat-trick of the tournament.

Mandurah men posed a tough challenge later on Saturday, resulting in a tight 9-5 win for the Geraldton side. In Geraldton’s final ladder game, they beat Karratha 11-2, with Corey Smith adding another two to his impressive individual haul, and Joel Cross nabbing four.

Despite conceding several goals in a strong push from Mandurah, Geraldton men displayed resilience in the grand final. At one point, it seemed Geraldton might be overwhelmed, but they held on, ultimately getting the better of Mandurah.

Coach Pead’s robust game plan and unwavering commitment, even in the face of rising emotions, played a crucial role in the team’s success.

In a standout performance, Luke Neuwert was a force in the middle of the pool for Geraldton, ensuring the team applied pressure and won convincingly.

Neuwert won the best in pool award and was overjoyed with the team’s success.

“They had us on the ropes in the first quarter. We were able to regroup in the second and then stuck to the game plan shutting down their key players. It was an awesome well-earnt win.” he said.

Geraldton’s women’s top tier side also entered the grand final undefeated, with their sole draw against fellow finalists, Bunbury.

The women opened their account with a 12-3 derby win over the Geraldton 2 side, with Emma Smith and Evie Prout scoring seven goals between them.

Subsequent victories included an 11-1 win and an 11-5 triumph over Peel and Karratha late Friday and early Saturday morning, respectively. Emma Smith added another hat-trick, and Keshi McCagh had her most exceptional game against a talented Karratha side.

A draw against Bunbury provided a significant challenge, but goals from Abbie MacDonald and Indi Smith showcased Geraldton’s depth.

A final victory of 14-4 against Busselton set up the grand final against Bunbury.

Similar to the men, Geraldton women initially looked overwhelmed in the big game, finding themselves 3-1 down. However, a comeback led by goals from Emma Smith and Sian MacDonald saw the ladies regain momentum.

Despite Bunbury keeping the pressure on, a remarkable goal from Aimee Hagan, scoring from nearly her own half, and two final goals from Emma Smith and Abbie MacDonald allowed Geraldton to pull ahead and maintain a two-goal lead over Bunbury until the final siren.

Emma Smith was awarded the best in pool, but it was the cohesive team effort that ensured the second consecutive country championships stayed in Geraldton.

Mel Buscumb had another great performance in goal, Trixie Kerr was solid in defence and consistent level heads from Indi Smith, Sabine Angeltatos and Milla Penberthy all led to gritty win.

Team manager Michelle Prout could not hide her pride in the association’s achievement over the weekend.

“It is such an amazing feeling winning such a tough-fought game. I’m so proud of both our Geraldton teams,” she said.

The Geraldton women and men number 2 sides also had a weekend of individual and team success.

The women finished at the foot of the ladder but had some exceptional team spirit and individual achievements. Lani Grant and Maggie Spiers had a great game against Peel, while Mikayla Cremin showed experience beyond her years in the Geraldton 2 goal.

The men also saw their own share of success winning one, drawing another and suffering three close losses. Noah Scott, Oliver Green and Darcy Wiffen were all exceptional in the seconds.

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