By Mark Etheridge
National women’s water polo captain Kelsey White will return from the FINA World Championships in Russia, slightly down but definitely not out!
The South Africans lost all their pool and play-off games and ended 16th in the Kazan event.
Pool games saw them going down 22-1 to the Netherlands, 19-1 to Australia, and 20-4 to Greece. Then, in the play-offs they lost 11-3 to New Zealand and 15-7 to Japan in their final match on Monday.
Skipper White, who with six goals also ended as joint top goal scorer with Ruby Versfeld for SA, is fully aware that for South Africa’s players its really a case of David v Goliath in terms of support structures, game time and funding but tried hard to put a brave face on.
‘The ladies showed so much heart and passion this tournament and I’m very proud of them. We gained lots of experience and learnt so much that we can take back and work on, and I truly hope that our efforts here have inspired many back home and that we were able to demonstrate the value of really hard work.’
All South Africa’s games were shown live on television which gave the so-called Cinderella code some much-needed exposure to a South African public used to being spoon-fed the larger codes of soccer, rugby and cricket.
In the Japan game, despite scoring three more goals than any of their other games, the team looked unstructured and by all accounts matters weren’t helped by there being no official team talk until directly before the game.
‘It’s difficult going into a game that you know you have a good chance of winning but without a strategic game plan. Any form of this only emerged just before we got into the water,’ said the skipper. ‘But that aside, lack of discipline and fitness let us down too. We let the game get away from us in the third quarter. Discipline and structure has to be a total buy-in from the administration, coach and all players.
‘Right now, that is huge weakness for us. But having said all of that, all credit to the Japanese they were well drilled, very fit and never stopped defending hard.’
Clearly the way forward for the SA bunch is a whole lot more professional route but for that finances are obviously going to be key.
‘We need to try and create some sort of fund, whether we fund raise for it or get some smaller sponsors involved. If we ever want to try and compete properly at the next championships, we have to change things drastically. Our preparation must be better. It is not nearly good enough that we have maybe one weekend training camp (self funded) before the champs and then play our first game as a team together as the first pool game of the tournament. As a team we are committed to making this happen somehow. We know we are capable of better and we will come back stronger.’
The next FINA World Championships will be hosted by Budapest, Hungary in two years time… already that clock is ticking!