It wasn’t meant to end this way

The CMAS Underwater Hockey Elite Men's World Championship trophy

The reflection that follows was written in September 2013. It was the weeks that followed the Underwater Hockey World Championships and the disappointment was still raw.

I’d imagined a different ending. Twelve months have been spent training for this tournament and now it’s over. It’s over and my imaginings have been exposed. In my version of events it was my teammates and I who hold the World Championship cup aloft. Instead, we are two rungs down with bronze medals hanging heavy on our necks.

Fifteen teams travelled to Hungary to compete in the Elite Men’s division of the Underwater Hockey World Championships. Some would argue that finishing in the medals is a good result. In time, perhaps I will come to see it that way. I’ll appreciate having had the opportunity to travel across the globe to represent my country. I’ll reminisce about that quaint little Hungarian town, Eger. I’ll remember laughing and joking with mates. But right here, right now, those thoughts are a long way off. We arrived as defending champions. We leave as footnote to a French victory. The jubilation on the faces of the French players is confronting. They are deserving winners but my guts churn with disappointment and envy.

Their celebrations continue and I try to pinpoint where it went wrong. Our preparation was excellent. My Australian teammates and I arrived more than a week before the start of the competition. The first days were spent getting over jet lag. Our training sessions allowed us to get a feel for the speed of the bottom and to gain touch on the puck. We ran drills and practiced set plays.

By the time the other teams began to arrive we were well settled. In the world of amateur sport, Underwater Hockey is about as niche as it gets. Invented by a group of English dive enthusiasts in the 1950’s it is only played by about 10,000 people but it wasn’t long before the streets of Eger were filled with Underwater junkies from across the globe. South Africans, Colombians, Canadians, Portuguese and many more, all draped in their national colours.

The competition ran nine days. Teams were divided into two seeded groups for the round robin. We were drawn in the tougher group and faced the two strongest teams – France and New Zealand – in the early stages.

We started sluggishly. Australia’s geographic isolation limits the opportunity for international match play. Having players spread across the country also means that we don’t get together often. Like all amateur sports, money is always a major consideration and it’s hard to justify paying for more than one training camp prior to a competition. It disadvantages us against countries where teams train and play together on a weekly basis.

The first two days provided mixed results, after four games we had two wins, a draw and a loss. We started to build momentum after that and finished the round robin sitting third in our group with a guaranteed finals berth.

Individually, I was happy with my performance to that point. There are always things you can improve on but I was in good physical shape, hadn’t spent any time in the bin and wasn’t getting pulled for fouling. My performance had been pretty consistent.

We won our quarterfinal game against Colombia 5-1 and booked a semi-final appointment with our long-time rival France. That was when things turned went bad. I felt the beginnings of a head cold and by the next morning I couldn’t get to the bottom of the warm-up pool without feeling like my sinuses would implode. My tournament was over.

Teams can field a squad of twelve in international tournaments but only ten play each game – six in the water and four substitutes – which means two players sit out. Our backline was full of experienced players so I may well have been sitting out the semi-final anyway but it didn’t make it any easier. For the first time in my career I wasn’t in the best ten for an important game.

I stood on the periphery while the team worked through our warm-up. When the semi-final started I found myself standing awkwardly by the side of the pool. I was vocal but powerless. The boys gave it a real shake. They played well but never quite got the upper hand. Two disallowed goals in the first half proved costly and the full time buzzer sounded with both teams tied at a goal apiece. That meant ten minutes of extra time. We applied sustained pressure to the attacking tray in the early stages but a referee call saw one of our boys sent to the bin for two minutes. Playing a man down, we defended grimly but the French eventually bullied the puck into the tray. They shut the game down and in the blink of an eye the final buzzer sounded. We lost 1-2. The realisation hit, our dream of back-to-back World Championships was over. A searing hollowness flooded into my guts.

Everyone was pretty flat but the boys picked themselves up to deliver their best performance on the final day. Our team peaked at exactly the right time but the bitter irony was that we did so in the wrong game. Not having done enough to get into the final meant we served our best to Great Britain in the bronze medal playoff. We constantly had numbers on the bottom and each play was executed with ruthless efficiency. Given how well they played, I reckon the boys could have beaten any opposition. The game ended in a 7-1 rout.

It was a lack of focus that cost us. We lost sight of the basics, didn’t swim enough to stretch the opposition, our effort was inconsistent and we didn’t string enough phases of play together. We assumed that we could just resume from two years earlier when we defeated South Africa 6-1 in the World Championships final held in Portugal. That assumption was our downfall.

I wrote the passages above in the firm belief that I had played my last Elite tournament. We had trained so hard, swum so much, and it hadn’t been enough. I couldn’t imagine putting myself through that again. Fast forward two years and I read over my thoughts with a different perspective. I have come to appreciate the things I thought I would: travelling, competing, and spending time with mates. The next Underwater Hockey World Championships will be held in Stellenbosch, South Africa in March next year. I have started training. I’m still unsure whether the fire burns bright enough but I have begun to imagine being there. I’ve started imagining holding that World Championship aloft, celebrating with my mates.

The growing legend of Matthew ‘Gator’ Gaite

Brunswick Street Oval

Early talk centres on the first gamers Dale Sheedy and Luke Edwards. Like many in the room Edwards has come through the Fitzroy Under 19s. Sheedy, on the other hand, has followed that well-worn trial up from the bush. The boys wish them luck and talk around the table quickly shifts to second gamer Matthew ‘Gator’ Gaite.

“Apparently he’s seven foot,” someone says.
“Seven one,” comes the reply.
“A giant among men.”

The discussion captures the interest of the room. In only in his third year of footy, Gator has made his way up into the ones. This time last year he was running around in the thirds.

It may have been the wine, it may have been the reflective mood of the room but it was hard to tell where truth ends and fiction begins. Whispers of a volleyball background abound. It is said that Gator grew up in the rugby heartland. He’d finally found his calling and made his way to proper footy.

Word goes around that Fitzroy has itself a genuine FIFO footballer. Just 12 hours prior, Gator had been in his hometown of Bellingen up in Northern NSW. Apparently, he’d risen at 2am, driven to the Gold Coast and met a flight bound for Brunswick Street. It’s a good thing he was picked in the ones as he wouldn’t have made the start of the reserves.

The Amateur Footballer was consulted and a few of the old boys shared a chuckle when they discovered he would be wearing – 120. Others just nodded knowingly, a big number for a big man.

The people were thirsty for more information. Questions were directed at Curly Hart, the youngest man in the room, who had played with Gator last year. Curly suggested Gator was most athletic person he had played alongside.

Talk moved to Gator’s Wayne Harmes moment in a thirds game last year. The sprayed kick of a teammate looked a certainty to end up out on the full. Gator refused to yield and instead sprinted full pelt in pursuit of the hopeless ball. Launching himself horizontal he managed to get a fingertip on ball millimetres from oblivion. Gator slapped the ball goalward and into the path of an oncoming teammate who ran into an open goal before falling to the ground coughing. He spluttered and retched before managing to spit something into his hand. A moment later, he stood and raised his arm to hold aloft the mouthguard that he had inadvertently swallowed. He quickly replaced the mouthguard before standing up back to the centre square to contest the next centre bounce.

The luncheon participants were suitably impressed and the legend of Gator continued to grow. Past players, old and young, speculated on his ability. He was said to have a decent leg and the ability to make the impossible look easy but was occasionally prone to dropping the simplest of marks. The reoccurring theme was that Fitzroy had found itself another man who has a dip.

An Engineer by trade, Gator is said to be a man who constructs buildings by day and leaps them by night. Today he would don the famous red, blue and yellow gurney and tread the same Brunswick Street turf as former Fitzroy rucking greats Albert Clay, Frank Curcio, Russell Crow and Alan Gale.

Gator went on to spend the game rotating through the ruck where he thrived on the contest, often using his height and reach to give the Fitzroy midfield first use of the ball. He also competed strongly around the ground and took some telling marks late in the game.

Originally published on footyalmanac.com.au on 20 May 2015. 

VAFA: Fitzroy v Old Melburnians

Fitzroy past players luncheon at Brunswick Oval.

Fitzroy FC 12.9 (81) def by Old Melburnians 13.10 (88)
Brunswick Street Oval
16 May 2015

Grassroots footy is up against a crowded cultural landscape. It vies for attention with the elite competition, any number of other sporting codes, community organisations and recreational activities. But footy clubs have a unique ability to bring people together; in many communities throughout Australia footy grounds are epicentres of place and belonging.

This is true of the footy ground in the heart of Fitzroy. The Brunswick Street Oval has hosted footy for nearly as long as its been played. The Lions played more than more than six hundred VFL games there between 1897 and 1966. League matches are a distant memory but the Brunswick Street Oval is still a place where people from all walks of life come together to reflect, relax and kick an oval shaped ball around an ancient paddock.

Like so many Saturday’s afternoons that had come before the Brunswick Street was again home to a game of footy. Today it was the Round Six VAFA Premier B game between Fitzroy FC and Old Melburnians.

Fitzroy’s long and proud football history was on full display at a reunion luncheon held prior to the game. MCs Colin Hobbs (1966-71; 64 games) and Danny Wilson traded jokes, laughs and war stories with past players from a range of eras. Winner of the 1971 Stawell Gift Trevor McGregor (1966-71; 47 games) reflected on the challenges of balancing football and athletics in an era when cross training was unheard of. Paul O’Brien (1966-69; 47 games) discussed fighting at Preston jazz dances and playing Centre Half Back in the senior team. Brian Pert (1954-65; 125 games) recalled how he came to miss the 1960 Preliminary Final after being cut by a falling shard of glass after his teammate kicked a football into a fluorescent light hanging from the roof. While self proclaimed member of the ‘All Australian team of surnames beginning with Z’ Bruno Zorzi (1957-58 & 60; 18 games) shared his memories of debuting at Full Back on North Melbourne’s Jock Spencer and playing in Brunswick Street mud so deep that he lost his boot.

Fitzroy past players luncheon at Brunswick Oval.
Fitzroy past players luncheon at Brunswick Oval.

The modern day Fitzroy Football Club maintains a sense of community that is rare amongst sporting clubs, especially in the city. Supporters range from Fitzroy diehards to young families who just happen to live around the corner. Club President Joan Eddy takes the stage, welcomes them all and acknowledges a list of sponsors that reads like it would in any town in Australia: the local Bendigo Bank, the North Fitzroy Caltex, the Royal Derby Hotel and Piedimonte’s supermarket, to name but a few.

Joan notes that at 1-4, the game it is crucial in the context of Fitzroy’s season but also acknowledges that the competition is as tough as ever in Premier B. She makes special mention of Dale Sheedy and Luke Edwards who are making their senior debuts. She also notes second gamer, 7’01’’ ruckman Matthew Gaite. Edwards is a product of the Fitzroy under 19s while both Sheedy and Gaite have made their way to the club from the bush.

Looking out over the ground but it is hard to imagine the muddy bogs of yesteryear. It is a perfect autumn day and the ground is in beautiful nick beneath a cloudless blue sky. There certainly wasn’t any chance that boots would be lost to the mud.

When the siren sounds it is Old Melburnians who burst out of the blocks, moving the ball with fluency. Fitzroy co-captain Daniel Bisetto is doing his utmost to stem the tide, repeatedly dropping back and dragging in telling marks, but the Redlegs run and carry is generating too many quality opportunities and they take a two-goal lead into the first change.

The second quarter sees the intensity lift and with it a change in momentum. Gaite competes manfully in the ruck, using both height and reach to give the Fitzroy midfield first use. Redleg’s midfielder Edward De Fegely cannons in and out of packs but Fitzroy’s defensive pressure is decisive. Rory Angiolella and Dominic Pound-Palmieri both look lively and the Roys get themselves back into the match kicking four goals to one for the term.

The half time siren sees of past players, supporters and blokes from the 2s duck through the back gate of the North Fitzroy Bowls club for rumination and speculation over a couple of quiet pots. Attention is diverted from the clinking of glasses and the speed of the green when the siren sounds. The punters down their the last of drinks and head back to WT Peterson Community Oval for the second half.

The game settles into an end to end struggle. Old Melburnians draw away and Fitzroy to doggedly peg them back. George Hurley-Wellington is strong across halfback for the Redlegs but Bisetto is equally effective on the opposite line for Fitzroy. Thomas Bachet finds himself on the end of scrambled kick and converts for Old Melburnians but Chris Doherty finds the reply within a minute. Only two points separate the sides at the final change.

The final term is a seesawing affair. Fitzroy come out all guns blazing and skip away to a two-goal lead but the Redlegs rally with consecutive goals. The scoring dries as the ball is shunted from contest to contest. The deadlock breaks when the play opens up and Theodore Rosenthal puts the Redlegs in front. A big contested grab at centre half forward by Bisetto has the Fitzroy old boys nodding with appreciation. ‘League level grab that,’ is the call. The two sides go goal for goal while supporters anxiously glance at their watches and yell themselves hoarse. Thomas Hywood’s second goal seals the win for Old Melburnians and the Heritage Listed grandstand groans.

Fitzroy supporters walk away disappointed with the result but content in the knowledge that the Brunswick Street Oval still knows how to put on a show.

Originally published on footyalmanac.com.au on 19 May 2015.

In Bob we trust

In Bob we trust

Bob Murphy lives around the corner. I see him walking the streets of Carlton North with his family, Justine, Frankie Jarvis and his dog, Arthur. I guess it’s the lot of an AFL footballer living in Melbourne but it’s weird knowing so much about a person you’ve never met, let alone talked to. We know a lot more about Bob because of the weekly column in The Age. We’ve read about the first pair of football boots he owned, his friendships with Gia and the people’s Beard and his love of the kennel.

Bob writes a good piece, he has humility and an eye for detail that you don’t often see. Bob’s musings on life, mateship and the joys and pressures of football provide a unique perspective on what is an increasingly sanitised industry. His writing is reminiscent of the Brent Croswell pieces I’ve read.

Other than our geographic proximity there is bit of common ground between Bob and I. We seem to share a taste for flannel and the music of Tom Waits, Tex Perkins, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and You Am I. We also both grew up in Gippsland. I’m pretty sure I shared a ground with him once or twice while playing junior footy, him for Warragul, me for Wonthaggi. Any similarities didn’t carry through to the playing field. Bob’s a creative flanker, a quality footballer. I was an ankle kicking struggler.

Because of these associations I’ve followed Bob’s career more closely than others. Not only is he an astute sports writer he’s also a joy to watch on the field. He’s quick of both mind and foot and rarely wastes it. Good footballers bring their teammates into the game and that’s one of Bob’s strengths. His creativity allows his teammates to shine. What I like most about Bob is his unabashed love for his club. It’s righteously old fashioned and wonderful to see.

In Bob we trustBeing the off season I’ve noticed Bob around the neighbourhood a bit more often over the past month, having dinner at the Great Northern, grabbing a coffee on Rathdowne Street, going for a run around the streets of Carlton North.

I have probably paid a little more attention given all of the press around the Bullies. He seemed to cut a forlorn figure amongst the Carlton crowd. I couldn’t help but wonder what he made of the Griffen, Cooney and Higgins departures or how he felt about Brendan McCartney’s resignation and now Luke Beveridge’s appointment. Bob ducked out of the kennel for a couple weeks and has returned to a different looking family.

I was glad to see Bob named captain. He’ll be a ripper. He looks the man to build a bridge between old dogs and new pups. He’ll insist on a respect for tradition and share his love of the club and it’s people. I reckon things will be all right out at the kennel. All this recent turmoil will be quickly forgotten. I’ll still see Bob around the neighbourhood now and then but I won’t be wasting my time wondering whether the pups of the west are in capable hands.

Originally published at footyalmanac.com.au on November 25, 2014.

All Saints Day from the Nicholson Street TAB

TAB sign

TAB sign

It’s no coincidence that the best card in Australian racing fell on All Saints day. The canonized associates of the lord presided over fields of the highest order. More than 90,000 people graced Flemington’s lawns, marquees and carparks but for me it was the no-nonsense surrounds of the Nicholson Street TAB. For the regular Carlton North crew (and their peers that frequent countless other TABs across this great land) Saturday racing is a ritual equal to any Christian observance.

I know the Nicholson Street TAB well. It was the first agency I worked in, I did my Sellers ticket there. Dad is a horse breaker and farrier so I’d been around the gee-gees all my life but it wasn’t until that point that I discovered the complexity and intrigue of parimutuel betting. It’s been a passion ever since, and that I’ve ended up living less than five minutes walk from the place is both a blessing and a curse.

Not much has changed in the 15 years since I worked there. It’s not the classiest joint from which to experience the sport of kings. Men in dapper suits and women in heels and cocktail dresses are a world away. The place smells of sweat and stale cigarette smoke. There’s hardy a soul aged under sixty; well dressed gentlemen with their slacks, shirts and sensible shoes and those in two strip tracksuit pants and runners. The TAB might be bleeding market share to the newer, sexier sports betting agencies but there’s still a place for it. TABs have a rhythm of their own: punters moving from board to board, the rush and hustle at the windows and the quality of the banter. There’s also the fact that form reads better when pinned to a corkboard.

It was a good day of racing; neck and neck finishes with a bit of value to be found. The Carlton locals seemed to start well, half the room called Kermadec home and while heads were starched when Thunder Lady saluted in the Wakefield, Hucklebuck provided atonement.

At one point a woman walked in with her fella – necks craned and pacemakers stalled but the excitement quickly abated. Eyes returned to the form or the screens.

A few in the crowd applauded Joao Moreira’s double, more for the fact that he steered Signoff into a Cup berth. Some even celebrated with focaccia from Milato Café across the road. They returned with a couple of sneaky Fat Yak stubbies in time to see Happy Trails get the nod.

The highlight of the day came when Preferment nosed out Bondeiger. The bloke next to me looked to his mate and said, “Good win. Oliver?”

His mate nodded, “Waller too.”

“Pricks,” said the first bloke. They shook their heads knowingly and chuckled.

I had to smile too, two Group 1s for Ollie and three winners for Waller, it’s a fair day at the office.

The Myer Classic saw Bonaria add some much needed value to the multiples and as the 96 tram continued to rattle back and forth between East Brunswick and St Kilda those still alive in the Quaddie discussed the chances of Deep Fields. $1.60 is pretty skinny but he still proved to be a popular winner.

For me and most others, that saw another Saturday done. For the blokes still with a taste for it there were a couple left at Ascot then the dogs at The Meadows. The Nicholson Street TAB might not have the gravitas of Flemington but it’s still provides a good day of racing.

This article was originally published in the Footy Almanac on 3 November 2014.

Twenty years of baggage

UWH gear
UWH gear
Some of the underwater hockey gear I’ve accumulated.

Preparing for my annual trip to the Australian Underwater Hockey Championships I found myself rummaging through my spare gear. Sitting on the floor in living room of our Carlton North apartment it dawned on me that a full twenty years earlier I would have been sitting in my parent’s house in Wonthaggi doing the same thing. In December 1993 it was a skinny little freckle faced squirt getting ready to play in his first National Championships. The butterflies in my belly have faded as the bats, fins and snorkels strewn across the room have aged and worn but the list below is a physical remainder of two decades spent chasing a lead puck around the bottom of a hundred different swimming pools across the world:

  • 11 pairs of fins (three unbroken Breier Carbon Fibre open heels, one pair of Najade, four pairs of Technisub Ala – one good and three clapped out – one pair of Technisub Stratos FP, a pair of F1s shitboxes and two pairs carbon Leaderfins)
  • 10 left handed gloves (three silicone Boney, four silicone South African, a latex TruBlue, one Slovenian and a latex Stu Parko special)
  • One right handed latex TruBlue glove
  • Five masks (two Reef teardrops – fuck! things are getting dire – one Cressi Big-Eyes, one TUSA SplenDive II and a Cressi SuperOcchio)
  • 20 Waterpolo caps (1s, 2s, 8s, 10s, 2 pairs of 11s and 13s plus a singe 1 (red), 6, 9 and 11)
  • About 30 odd sticks (3 pairs of Arnold Piccoli endorsed wooden monster hooks, 1 pair plastic Dorsels (unused), 1 pair CamAm Gav Wise plastic (I tried them once), 1 black South African Sharkie  (Unused), about 10 pairs of assorted homemade wooden bats and one right handed wooden Razor white ‘appropriated’ from Parko or Nick Martyn by the looks of it)
  • 17 pairs of bathers
  • Four pairs of Victorian branded tri-vests (thank god those days are over)
  • Three pairs of Lycra socks
  • Three medium fin keepers
  • Four pairs of swimming goggles
  • Three snorkels
  • Three gear bags (one Australian branded, one Hockeysub and one cricket bag)
  • 20m of 3mm utility cord
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Bastard file (rusty)
  • Swiss Army knife (unusable)
  • Bag of zip ties
  • Three rolls of Quick Eze
  • Voltaren (both tablets and gel)
  • Two black Textas
  • One White paint pen
  • One and a half rolls of Duct tape
  • Three rolls of Electrical tape
  • Three orange Super Soft Trueblue pucks
  • Three green Trueblue pucks
  • One Pink Trueblue puck
  • One Simms puck
  • One Lead puck
  • Two Elite Men’s World Championship gold medals
  • One Elite Men’s World Championship Bronze medal
  • One Australian Nationals Men’s division gold medal
  • A shoe box full of Australian Nationals Men’s  division bronze medals

Rummaging through twenty years of underwater hockey memories was an opportunity to reflect on my time in the sport. The act of cataloging my spare gear led me to the following realisations:

  1. Nearly two-thirds of my life has been spent playing Underwater Hockey
  2. I’ve had some amazing experiences and met a bunch of fantastic people along the way
  3. I have enough spare gear to allow two teams of left handers to play on another
  4. I am still passionately in love with the sport

And then there were eight

The CMAS Underwater Hockey Elite Men's World Championship trophy

The round robin is finally over. Nine games over six days for six wins, two draws and a loss means that we finished third in our side of the draw. A quarterfinal appointment with Colombia is locked in.

It has been fun thus far. We have had some tough games and a couple of easier assignments. One of the most enjoyable parts of coming away to a competition like the World Championships is testing yourself against the different styles played by other countries.

The general standard of hockey is quite high back in Australia but our geographical isolation mean international competitions are few and far between. We play a trans Tasman series against New Zealand every other year. They are fiercely contested affairs but coming up against the same faces year after year does wear a little thin.

Each time I come away to World Championships I am amazed at how much time the puck spends on the wall. The other countries seem to love that shit. I’ve never been averse to a bit of biffo on the wall but keeping it there for the entire game saps the interest out of the contest. It stifles imagination and creativity and turns the game into a bargefest.

The other obvious difference is the amount of time the puck spends on the back of player’s sticks. Some of the guys from other countries have mad skills: they use smaller sticks and attempt all these amazingly complicated and elaborate moves. They use the reverse flick far more often.

That type of play is very effective but I only know the Australian way. I try to get tight to the bottom and hit the puck hard. I’ve got a push-pull, a swerve, a flick and a curl.  Most of my teammates have a similar toolkit. What I like about our style of play is that there’s no bullshit. It’s basic and it’s effective.

Finals start tomorrow and there is no better way to test our style of play against the best in the world.

Channeling my inner Wonthaggi

The World Championships outdoor pool at Eger
The World Championships outdoor pool at Eger, Hungary.

Whether it is a recommendation from a friend, seeing a poster down at the pool or joining a club at University, all underwater hockey players remember how they found their way to the game.

My pimply-faced journey began in Wonthaggi. I was splashing around at the local pool when an old hairy dude rocked over and suggested that we give underwater hockey a go. Give it a try I did. I was hooked from the start.

We played on a Thursday night and I remember counting the days until the next session so that I could get amongst it again. I was telling anyone and everyone about this underwater pursuit that I had stumbled across. All my school friends where dragged along to the pool at one point or another.

The Wonthaggi pool is shallow, 0.8m to 1.5m, with fast, small tiles. It was a good place to learn the game. A pool like that gives you quick hands and teaches you the benefits of fast lateral movement. It is a small rural town but the club has produced dozens of national and international players. Some douchebag resurfaced the pool a couple of years back using those safety tiles that grip like a bastard and it completely changed the style of game. Club nights have turned into a flick and chase bash-fest.

I never thought it would happen at the World Championship level but playing in the outdoor pool here at Eger took me back to my time in Wonthaggi. The visibility is terrible and the bottom is like sandpaper. Jase reckons he has seen rivers with less algae. Apparently some bright spark decided clean it using a chemical toxic enough to strip the glaze from the tiles. On the upside, channeling my inner Wonthaggi has worked quite well when adapting my game to the slugfest.

Getting the first day jitters out the way

The Australian Elite teams arrived in Eger nearly a week ago. The first New Zealand contingent arrived a day or two after. Many of the other teams didn’t turn up until yesterday. It’s interesting that two of the nations who have to travel the furthest, arrived the earliest.

Getting here early has had its advantages. We have had a chance to acclimatize and get over our jetlag. Some of the boys have even begun to decode the Hungarian passion for pork-based cuisine.

The team was selected back in January then we have spent the last seven days training, practicing and talking. This extra time adds to the excitement but also presents some challenges. You have so much time to think. Anticipation builds and builds so that by the time the competition actually comes around you are a bundle of nervous energy. The trick is not letting those nerves affect your game.

It’s a trick that I’m yet to master but our first game was a solid hit out against New Zealand. We drew the game 3-3 but the result is almost secondary to finally getting the games underway.

Eight months worth of swimming and training is behind us now. We will be better for our first run. Now we can get down to business. Let the games begin.

Top 10 Underwater Hockey songs

Most of the Australian teams have been holed up in Eger for five days now. As it has turned out we have had a fair bit of time between sessions.

Some people have spent that time working through one TV series or another, others have amused themselves with witty anecdotes about memories past, a select few might have even spent their spare time usefully.

I decided to turn my hand to compiling an Underwater Hockey themed mixed tape.

Pink Floyd – Breathe

Brooke Fraser – Something In The Water

Paul Kelly – Deeper Water

The Who – Water

Yazz – The Only Way Is Up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtKADQnjQmc

Fatboy Slim – Brimful Of Asha

Faith No More – Underwater Love

Bobby Darin – Splish Splash

Cat Power – Water And Air

PJ Harvey – Down By The Water

Any others I’ve missed?