Format change to reduce COVID-19 challenges in Australian wide competition

League season: Cronulla is one of the ten Australian Water Polo clubs who compete in the annual men's and women's national competition. Picture: John Veage
League season: Cronulla is one of the ten Australian Water Polo clubs who compete in the annual men's and women's national competition. Picture: John Veage

Brisbane is set to host the entire Australian Waterpolo League season this year in a new format designed to reduce COVID-19 challenges in the normally Australian wide competition.

The Australian Waterpolo League is Australia's premier domestic water polo competition and Cronulla is one of the ten Australian clubs who compete in the annual men's and women's competition.

The eight-day competition (March 31 - April 7) replaces the normal 12 round season and the format change is designed to provide clubs with the greatest degree of certainty in the current climate.

Nic Watkins, the Cronulla Water Polo President, said it would always be a tough challenge running a national competition with border closures.

"It's a big commitment from players. This will require them to take time off work and be away for Easter.

"Its also a huge opportunity to increase the visibility of the sport and both our men's and women's teams are excited to play with a packed stadium."

With international travel unlikely before the Tokyo Olympics, the 2021 Australian Water Polo League will play an even bigger role in preparing Australian team athletes for the Olympic Games.

The Australian Water Polo League is also the perfect build-up to the Australian Youth Water Polo Championships, which kicks off from April 7 for two weeks.

Water polo Australia CEO Richard McInnes said the format for 2021 presents a unique opportunity for the sport in an Olympic year.

"For April, Brisbane is set to become the epicentre of water polo. For the first time in the sport's history, we will bring together the Australian Waterpolo League and Australian Youth Championships in a true celebration of our sport, from our 12-year-olds through to our current Olympians,"

Antony Green, the AWL Advisory Committee Chair, said the format presents a great opportunity for the league.

"The Clubs were keen to support our National teams allowing them to play high standard tournament water polo as a part of Olympic preparations. We all need to be flexible in these times and the Clubs were keen to facilitate the highest level of water polo for our elite players."

This story A shorter season first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.