Water polo in Rockhampton packs a small but mighty punch. This season alone Rockhampton has fielded a team at State Titles, had athletes selected in the Queensland Country and Queensland State Teams and has one athlete studying in the USA on a water polo scholarship.
A captive school audience has helped drive the region’s growth. Now with winter training available, water polo is set to go from strength to strength. We caught up with Rockhampton coach, Katie Hipgrave, to find out more.
You’re running another RTC block through the winter. How is that helping the sport in Rockhampton?
We had a great turn out for the previous block and this term we’ve got about 45-50 kids regularly turning up to training. During the two RTC blocks, we’ve been able to improve on the skills outlined in the session. Now that a lot of kids are returning, we’ve been able to build on these skills. We’ve also gone back to basics and spent more time on those areas that we might not have had much time to work on the previous term.
It’s been really good to give the kids something to do in winter. Previously there hasn’t been any water polo only swimming. So now, the kids are able to play water polo all year round.
With a great pool of kids, is the goal to send more than one team to State Titles this year?
It really depends on the availability around school holidays. Ideally, we would love to take two teams but at the moment we want to be able to field a team in each age group with players from Rocky. I don’t think we have enough players to field two teams in each age group but it is growing and things don’t happen overnight.
Has Rockhampton been able to send two teams previously to State Titles?
I don’t think so. I’ve only been back in Rockhampton for 18-months but previously when I played, we’ve only ever sent one team per age group or we haven’t been able to field teams. A lot of the times when we have sent teams, we’ve had to combine with another team or get lots of players from the draft.
The player pool is growing nicely, is the next step to develop more coaches and referees?
Yeah, it’s great that Water Polo Queensland are doing such a good job developing coaches. Mel has previously come up and run a coaching and refereeing course, which lots of people took advantage of. Personally, I’ve started taking more teams away. I took at Rocky team to States last year and a Countries team to last year’s Club Nationals. I’m taking a Countries team to Nationals again this year and I’m coaching the RTC here, which has been really good for my development.
With the referees, it’s a bit harder as we don’t have club water polo here as a lot of the kids once they finish school leave to go to Brisbane or elsewhere. We see a massive drop off, which can’t be helped. We do have a great school competition on Monday nights during Term 1 & 4. The referees can get in their hours there, which is good for their development.
And for you, what’s your next step and what do you want to achieve from coaching?
I’m really happy with what I am doing at the moment. I’m still developing and the RTC kids are really keen. But down the track, I would like to be able to take more Rocky teams away to State and National events. I enjoy working with the Queensland Country teams and kids who aren’t from my region. Eventually, one day, maybe through a school system, I would love to have a sports development program but that is many, many years down the track!!
Rockhampton hosted the Australian Country Championships recently, what impact did that have on the kids?
Yeah, a lot of the kids who play came down to watch. They got to see some of the older players, who have been around water polo for while, in action and see that it is a sport you can play for life. It’s had a really positive impact on the kids, especially those who got to play with the Queensland Black teams. They got some great experience playing alongside senior players and against physical, strong teams.
The Championships really helped the likes of Sean, Will and Matilda ahead of the State Tour. Has their involvement in various Queensland teams inspired the younger kids?
It’s been great to see their games develop and for them to become stronger players. They train with us at the RTC, which is really good for the youngsters. They look up to Sean and Will, having seen the opportunities water polo has given them. It’s really good for them to have something to aim towards.
So, do you think that the kids from the younger age groups will be making State Teams next year?
Hopefully! I think in the 14s, there should be a few up for consideration. We have a strong pool of 15-17-year-olds and our 16s and 18s teams are some of the strongest we have to offer. So hopefully, we will see more kids from those age groups in State Teams in the years to come.
We’re looking forward to seeing lots of Rockhampton teams at this year’s State Titles. Keep up the hard work!