Teams from the nation’s capital have reigned supreme at the recent 2023 PA Canoe Polo Championships held in Ballarat, Victoria, claiming national crowns in both the Open and Women’s divisions on Lake Wendouree, and securing the title as the best performing state at the Championships.
Over 100 athletes from 19 teams competed across the Under-21, Open, Women’s and Masters divisions, with Queensland victorious in the U21 division, and Tasmania winning gold in the Masters.
The Men’s Open ACT A team came in as the defending champions, after an historic gold at the Championships in Adelaide last year. They defended their title in Victoria with a very close 6 – 5 victory over South Australia, won in golden-point extra time.
ACT’s Michael Lawrence-Taylor said winning back-to-back national titles is a major achievement for the Canberra locals.
“After a long, very cold weekend, we were tired but mentally prepared for the grand final,” Lawrence-Taylor said.
“With both teams stepping up, the grand final proved to be very challenging and a well earnt win.
“This is only the second time the ACT has won the Open category in the history of the Australian Championships, so it means a huge amount to me and the rest of the team – particularly given we have consistently gone to most national championships since the competition began!
“As a state and at Burley Griffin Canoe Club I know our achievement will really help with motivation and development going forward.”
Lawrence-Taylor said the gold medal match was a hard fought battle, with player fouls and extra time adding to the thrilling final in Ballarat.
“Every time we scored, South Australia managed to score too. In the final minutes of the second half we were winning 5 – 4, but unfortunately I was sent off for two minutes after giving away a paddle foul (green card) which helped South Australia level the score to 5 – 5.
“This put us through to extra time – golden goal. Luckily our oldest and one of the fastest players James Deakin managed to win the charge start, and not too much longer after Jason Downey managed to score the winning goal which was a big relief!”
In the Open bronze medal match, Victoria defeated QLD 4 – 3.
In the women’s final, ACT A defeated South Australia 5 – 2 to secure the national championship. In the earlier round robin matches, SA had defeated ACT A 4 – 3 on the Saturday, before ACT A reversed the score to 3 – 1 in their second pool meeting.
Heading into the final, ACT A Women’s captain Laura Kleinrahm said there were some nerves, but her team knew they had the skills to overcome the South Australian team again.
“We were a little nervous, as SA and ACT each had a win against each other in the round-robin games, but we knew we’d played really well in our last game against SA, and that we had the skills to do it again – we just had to rely on staying composed and backing each other,” Kleinrahm said.
“We scored first, which really boosted morale, and then extended that lead so we were feeling excited as time started running out, but still alert as SA are a strong bunch who did give it a crack by scoring a couple of goals towards the end.”
This year marked the first time that ACT won both the Open and Women’s titles, which Kleinrahm says as a direct reflection on the work the club state has been doing in the participation and performance space.
“It’s the first time we’ve held both senior titles and the Best Performing State, so it’s a great sign that all the hard work is paying off.
“We were definitely one of the more experienced teams out there, but still hadn’t played this line-up before, and not all the girls had the best training lead-up, so it was really awesome to see how we learnt to gel together across the weekend.
“Receiving the Best Performing State award was really important as well because it reflected the successes and dedication of the entire ACT cohort, not just the two teams who got the medals.
“It was players in the B Teams who were training with us through the Canberra winter and doing the 7am women’s paddle fitness sessions, so the results are owed to them just as much. We are also really fortunate to have a super supportive club, who have invested time and money into helping polo grow, so we can’t wait to take up their trophy cabinet with our new bling!”
The women’s bronze medal was won by Queensland with a 6 – 4 victory over Victoria.
Queensland was victorious in the U21 division, with a 5 – 1 win over Tasmania. Victoria rounded out the podium, defeating South Australia 5 – 3 in the bronze medal match.
QLD’s Liam Warner said the win reflects the strength currently coming through Queensland’s development squads.
“This year’s win shows the confidence and experience of the current and emerging U21’s players in Queensland since there is a lot of strength in this squad and experience to pass down to those who are yet to compete,” Warner said.
“The highlights for me personally have been the support and teamwork from all the Queensland players and supporters before, during, and after every game which makes all the difference and gives an awesome lift whilst you’re playing.”
There was hardly anything separating Tasmania and South Australia in the final of the Masters Division, with TAS netting two goals to SA’s one.
Chris Bates said he felt relief securing the gold medal, after the Tasmanian team had been the most consistent throughout the tournament.
“It was a relief to come away with a win after not dropping a game all tournament and going a goal down early in the game,” Bates said. “This plays with your mind a little as you don’t want to be the team that only loses one game, the one that matters.”
With Tassie paddlers on the podium in both the Masters and U21 division, Bates said it’s exciting to see the growth of Canoe Polo in Tasmania, and thanks those who have contributed to the sport’s development.
“It is a positive sign for canoe polo in Tasmania to win a gold in Masters and a silver in Under 21s (with a very young side). It means, as a state, we are heading in the right direction and it is very encouraging that time spent training in the cold water is worthwhile.
“Tasmanian canoe polo had not fielded a team in the National competition for approximately 20 years until 2019. This led some good interest and momentum heading into the 2020 competition but COVID certainly put us back a few steps.
“It has been hard getting back to the pre-COVID level and getting some good results in this competition will hopefully get players motivated again.
“We have had some great support from the canoe polo community in helping us bridge the gaps created by 20 years of not competing at the higher levels. So thank you to everyone who has contributed to our progress, either through running development programs, refereeing courses, providing equipment, mentoring younger players or just coming down and playing games with us.”
Final Placings for the 2023 PA Canoe Polo Championships – see all results HERE
- ACT A
- ACT B
- NSW A
- NSW B
- ACT A
- ACT B