Hopes were not riding high for Dorset’s Senior Men’s team at this year’s ASA South West Water Polo Championships. With none of the usual players from Weymouth & Portland available it was left to players mostly from the opposite side of the County to field a team to face the might of Devon and Gloucestershire – however!
All six counties in the region had entered a Senior Men’s team so, for each team, the event would be a five game tournament. In the opening game against Somerset the Dorset team got off to a flying start winning 11-2 and with Jackson Mullins scoring seven of the goals. The second match against Gloucestershire was a much closer encounter but, due to a goal in the last minute scored by Matt Lands, resulted in an 8-7 win. The team then faced tournament favourites Cornwall but nevertheless ended with a comfortable 7-4 win, with goals scored by Nathan Perren, Matt Helps and Harrison Mullins.
The penultimate match was against Devon and, despite losing with a creditable 6-7, knowing that a last-match win against the 2015 winners Wiltshire would hand Dorset the Championship – and the “Jack Jones” trophy – made for a nail-biting end to the tournament. The final game against Wiltshire started off tight and tense with the first half ending in a 3-3 draw, but the Dorset team used its youth and fitness to power through and pull away in the second half to end with an emphatic 8-3 win.
“It’s a great result, one better than our second position last year. What is even more rewarding is that the majority of the teams came up through the age group ranks of Dorset Water Polo,” said David Bradley, Dorset County ASA Water Polo Secretary and long-serving player/coach for Bournemouth Water Polo Club.
Water Polo has a long and distinguished history in Dorset and is arguably the location for the world’s first ever structured Water Polo match held in 1876 off Bournemouth Pier. So, 140 years later, it’s an anniversary worth celebrating.
Photo: Back row (l-r) Matt Helps, Harrison Mullins, Kester Sheppard, Dan Redrupp, Ed Stevens, Matt Lands. Front row (l-r) Stefan Mikaelsson, Jackson Mullins, Nathan Perren, Alex Marsengo, Tim Barnes. Centre stage – the highly prized Jack Jones trophy.