When the GC2018 Queen’s Baton Runner’s were announced late in 2017, Debbie Powell wasn’t expecting to see her name on the list of Townsville runners. She is one of 100 lucky runners that will carry the Queen’s Baton through the city on its journey towards the Gold Coast for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Congratulations! It must have been a surprise to see your name on the list of QBR runners. Will you be running your leg and are people gearing up the Baton’s arrival?
Oh yes, definitely! The Baton will be in Townsville for two days – 18th & 19th March – so I’m expecting some good crowds on Sunday. We love our sports here and the people come to support sports in all its forms. I will be running on the 19th at 9.07am from 240 Ross River Road. We’ve been giving our 200m and I will give it a fair crack at a run, definitely a jog but certainly not a sprint!
You coach the juniors in Townsville, do many of the youngsters know your background or are you just Coach Debbie?
No!! I’m not a person that will look for accolades, I just want people to enjoy our sport. I think half of the people in Townsville would have been shocked to find out my background as we have a lot of new faces here. It’s not something I carry on my mantlepiece, I’m the head coach who loves sharing her experience.
How did you get involved with water polo?
I used to train with the City Past Time Swimming Club at Musgrave Park when I was in primary school. I think junior water polo started in Brisbane in the early 70s from City Past Time Swimming Club and from there a junior team started with an U18s team a little later on.
At that time the Queensland team consisted of an Open Women’s team and the first team was announced in 1974. I was involved in the second team when it was announced in 1975 and I played with Queensland until 1982. We won the Australian Championships in 1976 and from there the team first Australian team was selected. I was 16 when I was selected, the second youngest on the team and got to go on tour to Hawaii for an international tournament.
How have you seen the game change over the years?
Oh, the game has certainly progressed and developed since my time. The first Australian team, we were just spread out all over the place. There were four Queenslanders in the first team, so we trained together all winter and we all go together a week before our international competition in Hawaii.
Over time it developed and the last team I was in was more technical – we were watching our diet, training with different techniques, checking our heart rate and so on. The technicalities of the game certainly changed in the mid-80s to be more scientific, if that’s a better way of saying it.
Do you miss playing with the team or do you find reward in your role as head coach?
I really believe that my reward in water polo was when I was playing. The enjoyment came out of the camaraderie of a team sport, winning games with people that you played with, who worked from nothing and kept playing.
You make lifelong friends when you play a team sport. I still keep in touch with all of the girls, it was lovely catching up with Debbie after she was inducted into the Hall of Fame. She worked long and hard for our sport to be recognised and she deserved that. She was a pioneer in the early days of the sport.
I was back in the water for the Queensland Country Championships, I hadn’t been in the water for a while and it was really enjoyable. I’ve been coaching since 2001 and I coach the U14s right through to Opens. I love coaching anyone and everyone who wants to come along!
And what are the key things that you teach your kids?
Eggbeater and getting them to put their hand under the ball to pick it up. I reckon those are the most important things.
Finally any words of encouragement for those young athletes trying to break into the top flight?
It’s an enjoyable sport to play, it’s no more rough and tumble than any of the land sports. It’s a good physical sport for all to play but for those who are looking to Tokyo and beyond, just go out an enjoy yourselves.
Debbie will be running her QBR leg on Monday, 19 March at 9:07am from 240 Ross River Road. If you’re in the area be sure to cheer her on.