Australian men’s team – post London comments
October 1, 2012 14 Comments
Recently, I have been receiving comments and questions – both written and oral – regarding the Australian men’s water polo team (see the ‘comments’ section of the ‘Thomas Whalan: We have a great chance in London’ post). Below are my comments in response to those matters.
– Just wondering if you have had any time to watch any of the games from London?
Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts to get accreditation to attend the water polo tournament there, I could not get one. Other logistical issues made it difficult for me to be in London at the time. Had I been there, I would certainly have written about both the men and women’s tournaments.
I intend, however, to watch the videos of the matches and will be able to comment on them afterwards.
– What were your thoughts on the final make-up of the team? Any surprises?
I have been watching the Australian team – whenever it was logistically possible – including at the world championships and other international events both in Australia and overseas at my own expense over the last eight years. Some of my thoughts were written either as posts (for example, ‘Australian Men’s Olympic Squad’, ‘2003 world championships’ lessons’, ‘Australian “All Stars” match impressions’ and others posts, in particular the reports from the NWPL Finals) or in the ‘comments’ section responding to others.
In my opinion, the last two Olympic four-year cycles were a period of wasted opportunities. The main reason for such a conclusion is that there was no proper leadership at the Federal level. The Australian men’s team had the opportunities to get, at least, a couple of big time medals at the world championships and the Beijing and London Olympic games.
As I mentioned previously, the team that was created by 2004 was virtually destroyed in 2005 – its performance in Montreal was a complete disaster. Since then it has never recovered. The criteria and reasoning behind the coaching appointments were uncertain. The persons who were involved in those decisions could not properly explain themselves. That was one of the main reasons for the years of unfulfilled opportunities for the Australian squad and unrealized dreams of talented young Australians who worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices over the years. That begs the question as to whether the people who run Water Polo Australia actually possess the necessary qualities to meet the requirements of the office.
Regarding the last 2 years before London, from what I have seen, I could not get rid of the feeling that the coaching staff were more concerned with ‘ticking the right boxes’ rather than with the actual coaching and development of the team. There is also the question as to whether the coaches had the experience and expertise and the charisma necessary to achieve success at that level of international competition. After all, John Fox had not previously proven himself as a successful coach or player prior to his appointment as Head Coach.
I was watching live the Grand Final of the World League in Almaty last June where supposedly the final decision on the make-up of the team was made. The non-selection of Anthony Martin and Rob Maitland were not clear-cut to me as well as a number of other personnel selection decisions over the last eight years and about which I have written in my posts. It is my understanding that some players who were selected did not get much of pool time in London. May be that was one of the reasons as to why Australia lost the last period and the match against Serbia.
– Were you happy or disappointed in Australia’s results? Where did the Sharks go wrong in the game against Serbia?
As someone who put a lot of effort and work into the development of most of the Australian players who went to London and into Australian water polo in general, naturally, I was disappointed. However, I was not too surprised as the team’s performance pattern in London – including against the Serbian team – was somewhat similar to its performance at all major events over the last eight years. The Head coach simply did not have the expertise, authority and charisma to be successful at that level even though the material, financial and logistical possibilities at his disposal were conducive to achieving better results. For example, at the Beijing Olympiad in 2008, Australia had a great chance to make top four by beating Montenegro. It did not. And there are no excuses for that.
– Anyone step up in the tournament from Australia?
As I said before, I did not watch the games as yet and am unable to answer that question definitively. But I am aware that prior to the decisive match against Greece, certain players took the initiative to address the issues of the team’s performance in the preceding matches by analysing and discussing them during the organised video sessions that were not planned by the coaching staff. Apparently, those discussions made a big difference in the Greece and subsequent matches.
– Was the sacking of John Fox expected?
As I mentioned in a previous post and above, John was lucky to get appointed in the first instance – as far as I am concerned, that was a questionable decision since there were no apparent objective reasons for his appointment. However, he had a much better ‘deal’ than the previous coaches since Charles Turner. He had almost 7 years in the job which is plenty of time to build a good team. Therefore, I think, his sacking was justifiable.