Thursday, April 26, 2018

Double success for Caledonia marks historic weekend for Scottish Water Polo

"It was a really good team effort and we couldn’t have done it without every single one of those guys there." Dominique Zahra, U19 player and recipient of the MVP award

Caledonia Water Polo came home with two trophies from the Swim England National Age Group Championships (NAGS) this month, for their Under 19 Boys and Under 17 Boys.

The U19s won the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships for the first time in their history, which also represented the first win of the U19 Boys Championship by any Scottish team since the tournament began.

The championship win, on April 15, coupled with a victory in the Plate competition for the U17 Boys, marked an historic weekend for Scottish Water Polo on the whole. The U19’s victory was only the fifth time a Scottish team has been crowned NAG Champions at any age group since 1947, after Dunfermline WPC U17 Boys (2010), Portobello U17 Boys (1980 and 1981), and Hamilton U17 Boys (1979). Not to mention the added satisfaction of beating England's top clubs in their own pool.

The U19 squad beat the holders, Sedgefield, 8-6 in a hotly contested final, coming from 4-3 down after three quarters to be crowned champions. The U17 team lifted the Plate title after winning both games in Group B to book their place in the final showdown, and went on to beat fellow table-toppers Nova Centurion 8-2.

And the cherry on top of those endeavours was the individual accomplishments of U19 player Dominique Zahra, who took home the MVP Award and the Top Scorer Award.

Zahra, who followed up these achievements by winning the Willie Mellor Cup with Warrender WPC on Sunday at the Scottish Water Polo National Cup Championships, insisted the success is all down to the team and not one player.

He said: “The charisma and character everyone showed was great, we feel like we’re all brothers you know? We all love each other. It was a really good team effort and we couldn’t have done it without every single one of those guys there.

Neal Rayner, Scottish Water Polo Development Officer said: “This is a really big deal. To be make history in Scottish Water Polo in this way in just brilliant to see and I’m very happy for all involved. Well done to everybody on both teams.”

Zahra said individual awards were not his focus, and was overjoyed with the team’s performance.

“The individual stuff wasn’t on my mind but to get MVP and top goalscorer was a cherry on top of an amazing experience for us, being the first Scottish team to win the British Cup [at U19 level].

“We had to navigate two preliminary rounds before the finals, so we had to make our way through quite a few teams in order to prove ourselves good enough to be in the final.”

And in that final, Zahra said the first time he was sure his team would get their hands on the trophy wasn’t until Ben Scott had put Caledonia in the lead, late in the fourth quarter.

He told us: “We finished the first quarter 3-1 down so that was obviously a big shock. We picked up traction in the second and third quarters and then in the fourth I scored the goal to help us break away 7-6, with three minutes to go.

“And then Ben Scott got the final goal to make it 8-6 with a minute left and that was when I thought the deal was sealed."

Zahra commented that overcoming many people’s favourite for this year’s title, City of Sheffield, in the semi final went a long way to instilling belief that Caledonia could indeed lift the cup. “That was the best performance we’d ever had, we just blew them out. The atmosphere was phenomenal too.”

Well done once again to both Caledonia U19 Boys and Caledonia U17 Boys on your achievements.