Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Croydon 10 – Avondale 9 (Surrey League Final, 8th December 2008)

These two teams were tied at the top of the Surrey 1st division. There was nothing between them in the league and nothing between them tonight in a game that could have finished with either team winning a very even contest.

Croydon have a young side, given structure and a scoring edge through a couple of old campaigners and Avondale were their usual consistent mix, albeit without four of their stronger players, through a combination of childbirth, flue and the need to move body parts only during the hours of darkness. The combative Avondale captain (incidentally the most successful captain of the modern Avondale era) took no physical part of course. However, complete with ankle cast, his presence on the poolside, his cries of encouragement and useful advice for the referees, all played a part in the team performance.

The big pool favoured the youthful energy of Croydon, but in the early quarters they took the lead, due more to their pit play than speed; helped by a somewhat less than sparkling display from the aged Avondale keeper. At the Croydon end several well worked goals and impressive finishing from Eakins and the pink arm of Parkin, rising Excalibur like from the maelstrom of the pit, kept Avondale close on the heels of the home team. The Sniper sniped continuously. The game’s opening goal was a trademark effort from wide and about 10m out, it grazed the underside of the bar in the top corner to beat the excellent Croydon goal minder. In the Avondale defence a quizzical expression and raised eyebrows from Jotic at his exclusion defending the pit earned him an early shower. The referee, in order to ‘stamp his authority’ on proceedings, decided that wildly exuberant dissention of this kind could not go unpunished and ‘wrapped him up’.

The final quarter was worth the price of admission. The teams were level at 9-9 and both sides had excellent scoring opportunities. The wall was finally erected in the Avondale goal and the old boy stopped three practically certain goals from short range. Despite clearly being very tired, the visitors earned an extra man and a penalty in the list three minutes, but somehow failed to capitalise on either. With the extra man they contrived to hit the post (again!) from 5m and the Croydon keeper guessed right and saved the penalty well to maintain the status quo. In the dying seconds Croydon broke the deadlock with a neat pop from the pit to one of their youngsters who still had the energy to get in front of his defender. A great game of polo and a fitting end to the 2007-2008 Surrey Division 1.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Next Generation.... a big week

Congratulations to one current player and one alumni : Steve Moorhouse and Christelle had a son, Luc on 7th November 2008 and Keith Laslop and Catherine had a son, Victor on 6th November 2008. Looking forward to seeing Victor Laslop and Luc Moorhouse appearing on the team sheet together in the distant future.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Bexley v Avondale II (London League 21st October 2008)

The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard about this game was, "Where the !?*£ is Bexley?" Evidently, after some serious google searching and rereading the email to find the postcode, it turns out to be in Swanley, Kent. I thought Kent was supposed to be a really pretty county full of green forests and rolling hills. Oh well, clearly I know nothing about the English geography. Turns out this is in South East London. Images of burnt out trains and wrecked cars flashed before my eyes before I got a grip and reminded myself that South East London isn't quite as bad as Soweto....yet! The gunfire was only sporadic at best!

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the pool itself was a good one, wide and deep at both ends with floating goals, unlike the building that housed it which could have been mistaken for a throw back to the seventies even IN the seventies. It looked like some architect had got excited about his new set square while puffing on some of the good stuff. Either that or box construction was in that year. Anyways, we had found the pool situated in one of South East Londons up and coming areas...which is more than can be said for our polo caps. Turns out that Stratford is quite some way from Swanley!! So our merry bunch of ten was down to eight with no goalie and no caps. Not a great way to start against the team with the best record in the league. And sure as nuts Bexley turned out with a full compliment of players and luckily for us, some spare caps. Dont worry Maarten and Wayne, the game next week actually IS in Stratford. At least you know your way there already.

To say that a tough game had just got tougher would be a slight understatement and one could argue that we had defeated ourselves even before the beginning of the first chukka. And with an unfit Zimbo in goals making a fairly good impression of an overweight hippo sulking in the cabbage weed, who ever that one is would have a fairly compelling argument. Having said that though, the effort showed by the 2nds in giving the opposition a good game cannot be faulted and had we had a decent goalie and a couple of more subs, then the game would have taken on a very different tone.

Bexley proved to be a tough game, strong on defence and quick on the break. With more subs and some quick players, Avondale 2nds quickly tired. Despite rallying in the 3rd chukka, the 4th brought more of the same as the first two and the one sided game ended with a decidedly one sided score. Despite the boys not being able to sub regularly, Avondale still managed to get on several fast breaks only to be let down by the final pass or to have the shot saved by a REAL goalie. The boys did manage to break down the opposition D on occasions and put some well taken goals in the back of the net. Av'it!! Being the author of this report and the previously mentioned Zimbo hippo, I have to put my hand up and take the blame for giving away two majors although I am still trying to figure out how I gave away two penalties. But I redeemed myself by saving one.....ok so it hit the crossbar, which I could barely reach, but still, it didn't go in.

All in all, Avondale 2nds should be proud of the effort they put in and the fighting spirit they showed in not giving up. And maybe lets just leave it at that and not mention the score.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Basingstoke 5 - Avondale II 16 (London League 19th October 2008)

Basingstoke!!! Too much on a Sunday night for your South London correspondent, especially with the early start Monday to get all the copy typed on his trusty old typewriter, circa 1972, for this week’s deadline. Coincidentally an old mate, a southern hemisphere correspondent, was in the old country to dig some dirt on the English team going to the 2009 Lacrosse Women’s World Cup to be held in Prague. No second rate events for this journo and tonight’s contest truly tested my mettle. The journey out there was quite a trek, I know why my cobber decided to hand the baton over to me. It felt like a truly terrible Bermagui winter standing on the platform at Clapham Junction, and they reckon it’s only Autumn. Luckily my hip flask of Bundy provided all the warmth I needed to get me to Basingstoke. Unfortunately the limited column inches prevent me going into detail about my journey to the northern parts of Hampshire, I’ll save it for a chapter in my forthcoming memoirs, “A Bermagui Bludger Bums around Blighty”.

What a pool, too small, too shallow, and seating for only 100! Although overhearing the Avondale Twos talking before the game it sounds like this was pretty decent by English standards. I also gathered that this was an important game to avoid relegation so the Putney locals had their big guns out. The first quarter set the scene for the remainder of the game, except by score. Avondale Twos certainly outplayed the Hampshire locals but failed to capitalise with balls in the back of the net. The home team looked promising, if a bit green, and will certainly be a force to be reckoned with in future years. Despite the Avondale Twos valiant efforts they only came away with a 1-1 draw at quarter time.

The second quarter was quite different with Avondale goals coming from all over the place including a moment of madness in the middle few minutes when the referee gave a total of four 5 meter penalties. I’m not sure if this is common in the northern hemisphere, but back home I’ve had blowies create more of a nuisance on my back than the Basingstoke opposition. Credit to the bearded Dutchman and the Bluey Saffer in converting the penalties to points on the board. A few more goals from the field, including a perfectly placed outside shot from a hairy bloke who looked like an older version of a youngster I once witness play with the legendary Lepers in Melbourne many years ago.

The third and fourth quarters were more of the same, with some incredible defence from the goalkeeper, who valiantly played on despite a bloody nose in the 3rd quarter. The goalie was ably supported by a bloke who had a passing resemblance to some chap I remember seeing in the BBC commentary box at a major swimming event, was it the Commonwealths in Melbourne? Anyway this chap had countless interceptions pulling the ball out of mid-air like he was walking on water and despite not putting a ball past the opposition’s goalkeeper I think he ably earned the man of the match title. The visiting team came away with a well deserved 16 goals to Basingstoke’s 5 and have hopefully saved themselves from dropping a division at the end of the season.

I came away feeling a little more optimistic about British water polo; it will be a long time before it reaches Aussie standards. Next weekend I’m going to have to brave the cold to watch some lacrosse, and the hip flask is almost empty, does anyone know where a bloke can buy some Bundy around here. I think I saw a bottle shop near Clapham Junction…

Monday, 6 October 2008

Thought you'd ruined that light coloured garment?

Dave "Vanish" Brooks will be delivering his famous Stain Buster master class this Thursday evening after training at The Crooked Billet pub. Miss it at your peril.

Play Water Polo and you too could look like this .....

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Avondale 6 - Beckenham 7 (London League 8th September 2008)

The South London Correspondent is still away!

Matt Jeffrey had this to say about the game: "After a furious start where we went 3-1 down, things settled into a tight game with a lot of swimming (mainly by the opposition). Titanium Pete lived up to his name by making some fantastic saves, whilst up front, Milan took on the mantle of 'Shooter' and put away a couple of scintillating long shots. In the end we fought back to 6-7 but did not have enough time on the clock to put away an equaliser. A fine team performance - pity about the result!"

Triathlon Sunday - 7th September 2008

Avondale Water Polo club made it's first serious foray into the now very popular world or Triathlons. Maarten (44th) and Jonnie (11th) took part in the Mens Fitness Roughtrack Triathlon at Dorney Lake near Windsor and Peter (62nd), Dave (229th) and Matt (219th) ventured rather further afield to compete in the Helvellyn Trithlon in the Lake District.

Suffice to say that Avondale finished as the top Water Polo Club in the Helvelly Triathlon (top 3 finishers count)! Now don't they look like they were enjoying themselves!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Sutton 12 - Avondale 16 (London League 14th August 2008)

I shoot
You shoot
He shoots
He shoots again
and again
and again

The South London Correspondent is away in Beijing and asked me to cover this game for him. Well, blood it thicker than water, and I had no prior engagement, so I indulged cousin John.

I know nothing about Water Polo and little of the players save what cousin John's rather inadequate briefing via a poor mobile phone connection from 5,059 miles away (give or take the odd furlong) had imparted. He mentioned, "The Beast From The East", "sniper" Jacobs and "007", frankly I was lost and suspected he had finally crossed into that other country from which he would not return.

However, were I a sports commentator, after delivering the requisite cliché's, such as "a game of four halves " (or is that quarters?), and "the best team won on the night" (how hard can this be...) I would then have had to conclude that we had been treated to a virtuoso performance by "The Sniper".

He opened the game with a shot from somewhere near Guildford that arrived in that inconvenient moment for a goalkeeper when he is assessing the state of his defence, rather then attending to the whereabouts of the ball. I initially put it in the, "impressive but lucky" column, which by the end of the game I had merged with the "This goalie is out of his depth" column.

For a neophyte, this game is rather entertaining. I had no idea why the referees were blowing their whistles so often, and judging by the reactions of some of the players I was not alone. But this hardly detracted from the spectacle. I particularly liked "The Beast ..." (you know). He has obviously done this a few times before, and rather than facing the goal to shoot he increases the degree of difficulty by intentionally facing away from it. Most entertaining! I'm not sure the Sutton goal keeper ever really recovered from stopping one of these surprise deliveries with his face in the second quarter; but he wasn't exactly animated from the outset, so I may be doing him an injustice.

The pattern of the game seemed to be that Sutton would be very organised and score a well constructed goal involving lots of complicated passing and movement. Then Avondale would give the ball to "The Sniper" and he would throw it through the flailing arms of the goalkeeper, or against the inside of the goalpost or the roof of the net from wherever he happened to be when he got the ball. It strikes me that if you want to win at Water Polo you need more players like him!

Now don't get me wrong, there were lots of players on both sides and many of them caught my eye in addition to the aforementioned trio, but when all is said and done, you want those boys on your side. I left thinking about the eight goals that "The Sniper" scored and began to conjugate the verb "to shoot". As you can see I didn't make it past "he shoots"; and neither did Sutton.

Cousin John will probably still be on his Far East junket come Monday, when according to the press pack, these team reconvene for another game at Putney. I can think of worse ways to spend an evening.

Until then dear reader.....

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Avondal II vs Sutton II (Surrey League 11th August 2008)

A Report from the Real Avondale Captain:

coming soon!

or not! Too much foreplay Jo.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Cranleigh 6 - Avondale II 17 (Surrey League 29th July 2008)

A Report from the Real Avondale Captain:

A warm evening saw a streamlined team from the large ranks of highly tuned 2nd team players… ah-hem!

With a couple of our newest recruits we faced an ageing Cranleigh second team that rapidly made clear their intention to “have a laugh” once we scored a rapid 6 goals in the first quarter. To compound their situation, a home team turn out of 7 players meant their later losing a player to 3 major fouls left them in such a sorry state that they chose to concede the game midway through the 3rd quarter. This was to continue the game with 7 and make something of it. The score at that point was 17-6.

It’s a little sad to see a once worthy competitor reduced in numbers with little new blood in their team. But it also reinforced our desire to ensure that we succeed in the comping games to go up a division to avoid playing matches at this level.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Avondale 10 - Otter 11 (London Premiership 14th July 2008)

Finally, a game worthy of the price of admission; Rocky didn't even finish his chocolate digestive.

Otter looked to have a stronger squad than for the season's opener, nearly 3 months ago, when the visiting Avondale team ended up winning relatively comfortably. Once again Avondale were without their sharpshooter 007, but also, for a change, without the ever reliable Bind and Brooks. Strangely Moorhouse, the bedrock of their defence, also sat out the game, performing duties at the table. With two competent referees to keep order this had the hallmarks of a decent polo match, and Rocky and I had a small wager (I always keep the odd dog biscuit handy) as I fancied Otter to reverse their previous defeat.

Had this been greyhound racing, a trainer would have been sent to trap 1 early in the event to rouse the dog in white, who had clearly dozed off. Otter started by far the stronger side and at 0 - 4 half way through the first chukka, my antenna that had sensed a decent game appeared to be picking up the wrong channel. Otter were all half a yard quicker than their opponents and again and again managed steal the inside advantage and tap the ball into the vacant net. Avondale rallied slightly at the end of the quarter to pull a couple back, but still ended up 2 - 5 down at the change.

I need not have worried. Captain Fantastic managed to conjure the will to win from the lacklustre home team and the motivation that was sadly lacking from the start, reappeared in the second quarter. Goals from the strangely subdued 'sniper' Jacobs and two trademark backhands from Konrad from fast passes directly from the Avondale keeper quickly levelled the scores. The first of the backhands literally punctured the ball as it hit the far top corner of the net at barely sub-sonic speed and a replacement had to be found. Avondale managed a fourth in the quarter from the big ginger bloke who's bike I stole to ride home on (always worth popping a decent pair of bolt croppers in ones laptop bag) plus two good saves, one on each post from their evergreen keeper and finally in the last second an outrageous miss into a completely open goal from Otter closed the quarter at 6 - 5. Otter must have been kicking themselves. They had definitely played better polo as a team but the individual brilliance of the Avondale players and finally a defence that began to pay attention, with the long arms of Standley catching more than his share of ball, and we had a game worth watching.

From this point on there was never more than a goal in it, and a good sized pool of saliva collected at Rocky's feet as he sat rapt throughout the second half. Avondale looked the less fit, but their lack of aerobic prowess was more than compensated for by the skill of their attacking players and a persistent defence from one and all. Frank 'the tank' Ford, for whom an otter is generally only an appetiser, had earned a penalty in the second quarter and both he and Konrad earned one apiece in the third, somehow keeping Avondale ahead 9 - 8. "The Sniper" spent much of the third quarter on the bench looking decidedly unwell.

Otter levelled early in the fainal quarter and then edged ahead, only to see Avondale pull it back level after some persistent chasing from their captain and pressure on the Otter keeper forced him to submerge the ball and present Avondale with yet another penalty. A well worked extra man from Otter finally put them in front with only a minute to go and the game looked over. But, once again Avondale managed to work the ball to their right where the magician Konrad somehow completely fooled his defender who from where I was sitting just suddenly seemed to decide to take up a position behind the Hugarian rather then in front of him. Another penalty with 20 seconds on the clock and "The Tank" stepped up to the plate with the scores at 10 - 11. Perhaps he'd overdone the feeding and had grazed on one otter too many, who knows. The shot bounced up and rattled back off the crossbar to relieved cheers from the visitors, who ran down the clock to take a well earned victory.

What a pleasant way to spend a Monday evening.

Beckenham 10 - Avondale 2 (London Premiership 8 July 2008)

We have sketchy reports regarding the polo in SE London on 8th July, but Elliot Cross enjoyed a very pleasant family evening on the occasion of his 13th birthday and Guardian had this to say about Gnarles Barclay at the Astoria:

Green and Burton, a bespectacled, keyboard-playing boffin in a blazer, produce a set that has a foot in both the funk and psychedelia camps, and melancholy at its core. No matter how ebullient Cee-Lo's banter, when he sings, it comes from down deep. He pulls out all the stops on Neighbors, a soul ballad so weighty he sits down to deliver it, and it's not hammy but intensely poignant. Poignant is also the word for Just a Thought, a number that sounds huge and symphonic, but masks an aching heart.

"We've heard this a million times," Cee-Lo apologises at the start of Crazy, but familiarity hasn't dimmed its brilliance. By the end, Green is beaming like a searchlight, basking in the crowd's love for him and his singular band.

Avondale II 10 - Watford 16 (London League 7th July 2008)

A Report from the Real Avondale Captain:

An evening faced without the big guns. Last minute emergencies forced numbers down to 9 players for a team that often has a squad of 13 playing. Unfamiliar territory where fitness was to play a part. On a day of sunshine and showers the waterpolo showed similar characteristics. Some room for praise – 10 goals scored is pretty good, but to be taken apart by one player and not do anything about it… a shame. We were 8-8 at half time and maybe that fitness aspect showed, but it was a tail of spectacular play from their number 9, and fabulous hat tricks from Andy Parkin and Focco Van der Vegt – the latter showing a continuing show of impressive form from the new “working” man. Clearly his abandonment of his children during the day was allowing him fresh bursts of energy. I’m sure his wife will be so pleased.

The great thing about this game was the attitude of our opponents. Sure we lost but all agreed during the rehydration session that they were a lovely bunch of lads. As Andy put it “he elbowed me so I told him I’d f*cking kill him if he did it again. So he said ‘ok I won’t’. Right… ok then…” they were a good natured bunch and we went home knowing how we’d have done things differently but equally we knew we hadn’t been duped!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Avondale - Winners of the Tom Dwyer Cup 2008

Tom Dwyer Cup Final 2008
Avondale 29 - Blue Marlin 24

One sided games are getting to be a speciality of mine of late, but this one was forecast in advance by it's very nature. The Tom Dwyer Cup is a handicap tournament and history has a clear view on the matter of the type of winner. The congnoscenti will tell you that it's usually the Surrey League's strongest team, but occasionally a well handicap underdog turns over the favourite. Tonight's final had cliché engraved on it. Avondale were by some way the strongest team in the league last season and Blue Marlin, the current holders, have prevailed against strong opposition many times in this event. Rocky and I even had what would be considered a crowed for company in the stands this evening.

I've seen games like this before and from the a impartial spectator's perspective it's rarely a thing of beauty. Blue Marlin started with a 20 goal handicap in their favour and I've see them strangle opposition with a much smaller advantage than this as their opponents press just that little too hard. When the goals fail to come quickly it doesn't take long for the advantage to become overwhelming.

So, as our two referees lined up the teams there was the tangible air of anticipation about the encounter. My money was on the much stronger Avondale team, who had close to a full squad, but were missing Standley, Jotic and Bind, enough talent to make the boat wobble if not tip! At the visitor's end Blue Marlin seemed to have brought most of Walton On Thames. I had the distinct impression that there had been a three line whip applied and the bench was groaning!

The first quarter is often crucial in these games and so it proved tonight. I have rarely seen a more comprehensive blitz than that delivered by Avondale in the first seven minutes. Blue Marlin did have three shots in the quarter, all saved, one moderately well, by the aged Avondale keeper, but at the other end it was carnage! How may times have I see this Avondale team completely dominate the first quarter and yet come away with perhaps a two or three goal advantage. Tonight they were unstoppable. Bond was lethal, Jacobs deadly, Konrad delivered a trademark backhand from the half way that rebounded off the back of the goal onto the keepers head before he could twitch.... It was all a bit of a blur! The impressive thing was that Avondale not only shot accurately and decisively, but they delivered the ball intelligently for the final pass and several goals were into a vacant net as the keeper was stranded. The quarter finished 13 - 0 and the game was as good as over.

As might be expected Avondale's dominance slipped in the second quarter, which they won only 4 - 1, as everyone tried to get in on the goalfest, but it was really only a lull and the third was won 8 - 1, including a couple of impressive stands by the Orca like Ford, imperious in the pit. So we started the final quarter with a net score of 25 - 22. Both Rocky and I had rather lost interest by now as the home team cruised onto the podium, but as I left the pool I reflected on the fact that it might have seemed easy in the end, but only because Avondale had played so well for the first quarter. An object lesson in how to render a potentially slippery banana skin unslippery.

I leave you with something I overheard whilst leaving the pool, as two of the staff were talking and one mentioned that his father had died recently. Apparently a few weeks earlier his mother had covered his father's back in lard.... and he'd gone downhill very fast after that.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Derby Open Water Tournament 21 June 2008
A Report from our motoring correspondent Jeremy Clarksman

When my editor phoned and said, “Jerry, how do you fancy covering a polo tournament in Derby this week-end? The South London Correspondent is out of the country on some ‘southern hemisphere election business’, nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more, and we need a safe pair of hands.”. I thought, could be worse! Plenty of posh totty in top of the range 4x4s and a little too much Champagne. “Bamber, mate”, I told him, “fire over the details and I’ll see what I can do.”. That was on Friday afternoon. I printed off the details, stuck the post code in my Sat Nav and didn’t bother reading them until I was filling up the Ferrari at the services on the M1.

I don’t know which was more of a shock, the contents of the email or the daft bugger at the services trying to charge me nearly 30 billion pounds for a tank of petrol. I had no idea that people played polo in the water, can’t be too deep I thought, the poor old nags would drown. And one minor detail, the tournament is in Nottingham, not Derby.

Now there are some funny people about, I should know I work with a few of them, but this lot take the biscuit, in fact, the annual UK production of McVitie’s Digestives to be precise. When I’d got over the fact that the myopic idiot that calls himself my editor (Only kidding Bamber, old boy) had sent me to a Water Polo tournament and the fact that I was stood in the drizzle in Nottingham on a day that was seven thousand degrees colder than the average for the time of year, I managed to see the bright side. I didn’t have to take my clothes off and jump in the rowing lake, but dozens of idiots seemed to be doing it voluntarily.

You know the noise you get when you run over a fox and don’t quite finish it off, that high pitched squealing accompanied by an un-coordinated thrashing of limbs. Well this bunch of lunatics were doing it all over the place, hurling them selves into the brown sludge and flailing and squealing like they were being electrocuted. I assume that the water was rather cold. I looked around and there were practically naked bodies dotted around on floating blocks of concrete watching their mates in the water throwing brightly coloured balls around and fighting. There were other people blowing whistles for no discernable reason, but whenever the whistles went the drowning people stopped fighting and had a quick breather before setting about each other again. I looked about me for a sign that said “Nottingham Mad Peoples Day Out”, but couldn’t see one.

Under normal circumstances I would have hopped in the car and driven back to civilisation, but, always on the look our for another group of mad English eccentrics I thought I’d better find out what was going on. I managed to find one of the organisers, a nice, outwardly normal bloke called Jim, and he seemed happy enough to fill me in on what it was all about.

Having finally ascertained that there was no real point to the whole event. No major prizes would be awarded, no money would be changing hands, no-one would be any more famous after the tournament than before it, I gave up trying to understand why anyone in their right mind would subject themselves to this ludicrous folly and decided to watch a game or two. I asked Jim to point out the better teams and he advised me to watch the men’s top division and last year’s winners Avondale. I’d missed their first game (there’s a limit to how early even the most diligent reporter can rise from beneath his goose down duvet to cover sporting events) but already the invincible winners from the previous year were doomed to under-achievement having lost by a couple of goals to local London Rivals Beckenham.

I braved the drizzle and walked the few yards to the pitch where Avondale were about to take on Cardiff Old Boys. Well, I think I could have beaten the Cardiff ‘boys’. Several of the Cardiff players were untroubled by the cold having layers of blubber thicker than a luxury mattress. I had no idea what was going on, but could see that the Avondale players were definitely better at getting the ball into the goal than the old boys. How hard could this be? I thought I’d interview one or two of the Avondale team to get the player perspective (editors like that sort of thing) but they scarpered like a bunch of frightened sheep at the end of the game towards the changing rooms. I followed, like the intrepid reporter that I am, (and because I had been told that there was a Café there) and found the team immobile under the hot showers looking like a group of nine year old boys at your local sports centre. I decided to delay the interviews until later.

I must have nodded off over my coffee, because I woke to find myself alone in the café dribbling gently onto my cardigan with the time approaching 1:00pm. A quick consultation with my programme informed me that I would catch the next Avondale game against a team called Polytechnic in just a few minutes time. This was altogether better. The drizzle had slackened to a gentle wetting and we had a much more even match to watch. I got quite carried away at one point, even shouting something encouraging at someone. The Poly boys kept hitting the Avondale keeper on various parts of his head, body and arms and the poor old boy just didn’t seem able to get out of the way in time. A couple of goals from the big ginger bloke from Avondale kept them in front and they somehow managed to hold on for a 2 – 1 victory. The excitement was too much for me and I retired to the Motor for a quick snooze.

I woke a little while later and thought that the tide must have come in and that I was under water. Everything was grey and the windscreen was obscured with water. I remembered where I was as the sound of the chirpy announcer encouraged the players to forget the blatantly inhospitable conditions and to throw themselves into the freezing mud again. I was almost exhausted, but somehow managed to drag myself the few yards onto the floating pontoons to see another Avondale game. I had consulted the results sheets in the commentary box and saw that they were playing a team that were so far unbeaten. Penguin. I marvelled at the fabulously original name for a water polo club and scanned the list for any other teams who had thought of this exciting and original naming ploy. I found the Leeds Sharks, but sadly there were no Dolphins, no Tuna, no Cod and not a mollusc in sight. Disappointing

Meanwhile our victors from last year were getting a bit of a thrashing from the perky Penguins. Some ginger bloke seemed to be able to score even when his entire body was under water, the ball popping out from nowhere and arcing over the flailing arms of the old boy in the Avondale goal. I couldn’t be bothered to count the goals but the Penguins had a bait ball full compared with Avondale. Everyone shuffled off at the end to stand in the warm showers and I fell asleep again in the car.

Just one more supreme effort saw me back on the pool side for the final game in the men’s division. The Rotherham team hadn’t bothered with hats, which was a pity, because they were all identical as far as I could see, without a working follicle amongst them. Clearly I’d missed something in the tactics department and couldn’t quite see why the Avondale boys were allowing their keeper to get so much practice. Anyway he made good use of his face and arms to collect a nice set of bruises.

By now I’d had enough. My momentary enthusiasm for this weird sport was being washed away under the depressing Nottingham clouds that were almost touching my head. I snapped a picture of the scene and the Avondale keeper after the bombardment of the last game (here for your delectation). I left the Avondale boys sampling some home cooking from their captain’s girlfriend and declined a generous offer to muck in and taste Angle’s muffin. My last glimpse of the scene, through my rear view mirror was the cheery bunch, having been rained on all day, half frozen and having lost their trophy, happily joking and posing for photographs against the dead pan drab of the rowing lake. You couldn’t make it up!
The beautiful Derby Open Water Tournament 21 June 2008

The view from the warmth of the car

The perils of a lax defence!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Avondale II 17 - Cranleigh II 3 (Surrey League, 23 June 2008)

If you liked this you'll like... Tottenham Court Road. Personally neither Rocky or I like watching one way traffic and tonight's proceedings were as dull as the excuse for a game we were forced to endure last week. This week the home team won and last week they lost, but on both occasions the entertainment value was on a par with white line painting. I want my money back!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Avondale II 8ish - Sutton & Cheam II(ish) 16ish (Surrey League, 14 June 2008)

For those of you with a penchant for exciting, "edge of the seat", stories the concept of someone letting slip a key fact or tit-bit of unwanted detail as to the final dénouement is like the gratuitous exposure of a bloated roll of pasty white fat above a chav’s Burberry mini skirt on a cold January evening. It is unexpected, unwanted and immediately sickening. Almost as egregious would be the act of drawing the reader in by building the suspense and excitement of a competitive sporting encounter, but then to simply deflate their now stimulated expectation with a banal, or worse irrelevant, outcome. So let me confess immediately that I failed to see the conclusion of this game. The score is a guess based on the state of the parties at the time Rocky and I marched in disgust from the Putney Leisure Centre.

I had been looking forward to this match, having heard stories of recent close encounters and games being decided in the dying seconds. Rocky and I like a cliff hanger! The portents were good as I surveyed the two teams, although my intuition told me that the number of very strong juniors that Sutton had brought would almost certainly tip the result in their favour. Then in a quite bizarre twist their team captain came across to the balcony and exchanged words with their supporters, one of whom I recognised as a key player in their first team. He then proceeded to join the team and started the game for them.

I looked around for a protest from the home team for this blatant infringement of both the Surrey League rules and the spirit of the encounter, but either they were oblivious to the late addition or did not mind or care. I don’t believer Avondale ever make any official complaints about artificially strengthened teams, following the premise that you play the opposition team that are there, rather than the one you expected to turn up. I suppose life’s too short to worry about the outcome of the odd Water Polo match, but still…..

The game started and the result was clear from the first minute. Sutton were clearly too strong for Avondale and scored, I think, five unanswered goals in as many minutes. Rocky slumped at my feet after the third or fourth goal and was, in a trice, snoring gently. Even the visiting supporters, in the past surprisingly animated at these fixtures, were seemingly unmoved by the procession that was unfolding. Avondale were particularly clueless tonight and again and again managed to leave Sutton’s strongest shooter free on six of seven metres. The visitors did not disappoint with their quick accurate shooting. Moorhouse, from the Avondale First team, coaching from the pool side, tried to coax a more coherent and appropriate response from the normally more resilient “Real Avondale”, but sometimes the difference in quality between two teams is too wide a river to bridge.

I’ve better things to do than watch dull one sided games – I left them to it!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Whitgift I 5 - Avondale I 18 (Surrey League, 11 June 2008)

It’s a pleasure to visit the ample facilities at Whitgift School. You can knock the private education system (if you can’t afford it) but what could be more reassuring to those of us with an eye for the colonial past than to wander across the manicured cricket field in the warm summer evening with the sound of peacocks calling in the twilight. Next year’s prospective subscribers were emerging from the main school building brushing the crumbs away from their mouths as they ascended to the cool leather comfort of their lumpen four by fours. Satiated after the redundant but comforting smokes salmon sandwiches, Sauvignon Blanc and the Headmaster's address.

Rocky and I slipped through the throng as if invisible and made our way to the comfortable café area of the sports centre. The protagonists arrived in dribs and drabs and were diverted by a rather dull European soccer competition emerging without conviction from the large television screens. Rocky flopped beside me unenthusiastically.

My pre-match research had uncovered nothing about the form of the home team, Whitgift. They may have been playing as the home team, but the visitors looked just as comfortable as they chatted amiably in the cafe. I noticed a number of key players missing from the Avondale ranks, but picked up from their conversation that their dependable Captain had been forced to make a detour to collect a number of players after some vehicular malfunction. I saw no Bond, Konrad, Bind, Ford, Standley or Jacobs and wondered if Avondale were guilty of complacency. The Surrey league may not have quite the caché of the London Premiership, and Avondale went undefeated in this competition last season. Hubris is a dangerous and seductive companion and Whitgift can call upon a number of talented players. I felt an unexpected frisson of excitement and found myself considering that a rather more competitive encounter might be on the cards than I had envisaged when Rocky and I set out this evening.

As the teams warmed up it was apparent that the visitors had a solid but uninspired eight. And without their captain, no hats. It was all rather shambolic, with a gentle, casual air until the reason for their insouciance became clear. In short order, Konrad (as you’ll remember, tagged with the rather apposite moniker of “The Beast from the East”) their captain Petzer, Bond and Jacobs all arrived. A different prospect, suddenly, for the home team!

The late arrivals for Avondale had no time to warm up and the game started, late, with several of them dry. Two minutes later I was startled to find that the home team had the initial advantage with two unanswered goals. They weren’t goals that particularly inspired confidence and they owed something to the lack of attention that the visiting defenders managed to muster. The old Avondale keeper had only moved twice so far to retrieve the ball from the back of the net. When you’ve been at this game as long as I have you can sense an upset in the air. Rocky has a canine radar for these things that is more acute than his sense of smell; frankly it’s second to none, but he was comatose beneath my seat! Sure enough the tide turned in spectacular style when TBFTE somehow threaded a backhand shot through the Whitgift keeper. I say ‘through’ because there is no way to get a ball through the gaps between limb and post from the angle presented to the Hungarian wizard. Once again the laws of physics that bind the rest of us proved an ineffectual constraint and the Avondale show was back n the road. Jacobs arrived in the pool a moment later and warmed up with two strokes and a shot from the half way line that the keeper failed to even register. Remonstrating with a defender from one side of the goal when ‘The Sniper’ is in possession anywhere in the pool is a foolhardy pursuit. ‘The Sniper’ followed up with cross goal shot two minutes later and the keeper, who until this point had made a number of good saves, was simply operating in the wrong time frame to have any chance of interacting with the passing missile. The quarter closed at 3-2 to the visitors and now Rocky was scanning the pool eagerly from the seat beside me.

There might have been only a single goal between the teams, but both Rocky and I knew that the game was over. There was a time in Avondale’s past when I would have sneaked out and treated myself to a double decaf skinny mocha in the café. Now Rocky and I were looking forward to the entertainment. As a competitive spectacle, we were destined for disappointment, but there was some engaging water Polo ahead. The Avondale Captain began in style with a strong surge in the pit and scored at close quarters from a precise and well timed pass. Bond began to find his range and TBFTE delivered a trademark backhand that slammed in from the underside of the bar before anyone had even seen him pick up the ball. It must be rather demoralising for the opposition to shoot and three seconds later find youselves another goal down. It's simplicity itself and takes but a moment when the aged, but still surprisingly competent, Avondale keeper delivers a long accurate pass to the very slippery 007 who shoots and scores from ten metres. Suffice to say that the next two quarters were largely one-way traffic and they ended 9-3 and 16-5 to the visitors.

We had a moment of excitement towards the end of the third quarter then two of the players managed to spill some blood and perform a reasonable facsimile of Johnnie Weissmuller wrestling a crocodile in one of his 1940s Tarzan films. The referee laconically dismissed both players to the dressing room as a reward for their indulgent behaviour and both teams played with a man down for four minutes.

I was impressed with the efforts of Old Dave Brooks in the final quarter. For an old bloke he still gets about and in defence few adversaries get the better of him. On this occasion, cloaked in the invisibility of old age, he stole down the left wing undetected and put away a simple chance from a cross pass, whilst the keeper was busy attending to what appeared a moment earlier to be more important matters at the other side of his goal. Avondale finished with an outstanding bounce shot from the elusive 007 from all of 15 metres. The ball flew into the top of the net and Rocky gave a small bark of delight; a tasty little treat for my faithful companion at the end of another diverting Polo evening.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Avondale 1 v Croydon 1 - Surrey League 19 May 2008

From the South London Correspondent:

Avondale 16 - Croydon 9

It’s Putney, it’s Monday evening, it’s nine thirty, it must be an Avondale water polo match. Rocky and I are safely ensconced high in the spectators’ seats with a great view of the teams assembling for this Surrey League match between the Avondale and Croydon first teams.

I can see from some of the profiles on the visitor’s bench that Croydon do not have all of their strong players tonight, they have a stronger London League squad and may need the missing firepower this evening. Several of the older campaigners must surely have invested in the optional reinforced chord for their trunks! Avondale look to be at close to full strength, but they have their replacement keeper and are missing “the Sniper” Jacobs and their fulcrum in the pit, Frank “the Tank” Ford. Of more immediate interest to the visiting team will be the presence of the prolific Mike “007” Bond and “The Beast From The East”. I can see Rocky has spotted the latter showman and is already licking his chops in anticipation of some tasty Polo morsels that are bound to be served up tonight.

We have two referees for the game which is the exception rather than the rule in the Surrey league and whilst it will hopefully not be relevant tonight, previous clashes between these two teams have generated their fair share of ‘incidents’ and even the occasional moment of dissent from some players.

The first quarter is an evenly balanced affair. Croydon are rather more one dimensional than the home team and play the ball more frequently to the pit, whereas Avondale tend to spread the play earlier to the wings than is perhaps ideal. However the net effect is the same in terms of goals. Ominously for Croydon Avondale’s “007” scores twice with lightning fast shots from six or seven meter free throws and TBFTE drills a shot from an impossible angle over the keeper’s head. Surprisingly he also misses from a meter, flicking a shot against the post having rounded his man to take a well timed pass from “007”; Rocky looks up at me in surprise at this unlikely outcome. Croydon rely heavily on their keeper in these matches. He’s the best keeper in either the Surrey or London Leagues by some distance and he certainly earns his keep against these Avondale players, and tonight is no exception. The teams retire to their ends, equal at three – three.

In retrospect, the next quarter decided the outcome of the match. The difference between tonight and the performance of the mixed Avondale team at Reading last Thursday is profound, and led from the back. The inscrutable and highly effective Moorhouse (who earlier in the day had been in Mexico, I later discover!) transforms the Avondale defence. Again and again his anticipation and guile result in Avondale possession from a Croydon attack. Factor in the perpetual motion of “Stretch” Standley and constant interventions from “Binder”, as well as several good stops from the Kiwi Keeper and Croydon failed to improve their score in the quarter.

At the other end of the pool, even the talented Croydon keeper was struggling to keep back the onslaught. The Avondale players combined in varied and effective combinations to open up the Croydon defence. Their lack of a dedicated hole man produced a very different outcome in this quarter. Whereas in the first they seemed to lack focus, now it seemed to drive a more creative attack and the frequent cross passes and dynamic forward play resulted in six goals and as many saves and misses. Poor old Rocky was almost swooning with delight.

I must admit to having slightly switched off at this point and Rocky certainly had to have a little lie down beneath my seat, allowing the cool concrete floor to dissipate some of the heat and excitement of the quarter. Avondale continued to play some great polo, but failed to convert as many opportunities into goals has they had done in the previous quarter. Croydon plugged away, but just didn’t have the firepower to seriously threaten the home defence. My concentration wandered and for a moment I was back on the plains of Afghanistan, concealed in my burka, sitting in the back of a pickup truck on my way to meet with a tribal leader. The reverberations of the sound bouncing from the hard surfaces around me were replaced by the memory of harsh sunlight beating down on me and reflecting from the tarmac and every rock and stone that littered the ground as far the eye could see. The haze in the distance cloaks the transition from plain to rugged mountain and shimmers with a cruel illusion of water. Rocky chewing on my laces brought me back to the present. The teams were leaving the pool and Avondale had won with room to spare.

Reading 1 v Avondale 1 - London Premiership 15 May 2008

From the South London Correspondent:

Reading I 10 - Avondale I 12 (London League, 15 May 2008)

Rocky and I braved the journey westwards from Putney to Reading on this late spring evening. My faithful companion watched the traffic from the comfort of the passenger seat in our luxurious old Citroen with his ears twitching to the Doobie Brothers cassette. The don’t make them like they used to!

Reading, in parts, and the Central Pool in particular have all the aesthetic charm of a slag heap, but we were in good spirits when we arrived, buoyed by the memory of the two previous Avondale games in the London League. We were looking forward to our first view of Reading this season and I found myself doodling happily as I sat nibbling and sharing my Marmite sandwiched with Rocky. Avondale seemed to have a very mixed team and it took me a few seconds to recognise four or five second team regulars, or as they style themselves “Real Avondale”, in the team. A trip to Reading is a serious commitment for a Thursday evening (I hope my editor is reading this!) and clearly one or two of the stronger Avondale players had received better offers tonight.

Reading are missing some of the youthful players that I remember from a few seasons ago, on my last visit, but as I watched them warm up I recognised a couple of their very handy shooters. With a mixed Avondale team this might be a competitive game.

Avondale lost the toss and began defending the shallow end. I find myself tutting and muttering to myself more and more these days as senility beckons, but really, the standard of facilities for Waterpolo in England is lamentable and Rocky and I exchanged a few choice words about the state of the shallow end. Avondale’s evergreen keeper barely had his trunks wet as the game started. Mind you, watching the old boy warming up he didn’t look particularly sharp and the support of the pool floor appeared welcome.

I had forgotten how entertaining Avondale’s “Beast from the East” is to watch – and clearly judging by the fact that most of the Avondale team were now venturing no further than the half way line, they were enjoying the show as much as Rocky and I. The game was but a few minutes old before he had scored three outstanding goals. His backhand is a particularly dangerous weapon and based on the fact that the keeper’s first move in response is to retrieve the ball from the back of the net I suspect that there’s little warning of the impending missile from the recipients perspective. Avondale somewhat cruised through the first chukka, leading by tow at the close, but Reading posted their intentions clearly with one excellent long range shot into the top of the cavernous shallow end goal and a second well worked effort aided by some slack Avondale defending.

The advantage of playing into the deep end became evident in the second quarter. Reading were the better side and with some good break away play and an organised attack evened the scores at half time. Despite their consistently good play and Avondale’s lack of penetration in the duck pond of a shallow end the highlight of the half was a lightning fast move in the form of a simple pass from the Avondale keeper two thirds of the length of the pool to the breaking Hungarian. Blink and you would miss it, as with a magician’s slight of hand the ball apparently took on a life of it’s own and a split second later it appeared in the goal above the keepers head without him having time to so much as blink. The Beast From the East was taking the plaudits, but the teams swapped ends with seven goals each. Rocky knows when there’s a game to watch and he was perched on the seat beside me eyes and ears alert.

For a change there was what appeared to be real concentration at the Avondale end during the break. I noticed again that Mark Bind has emerged as the player with the ability to see what is important and to communicate that to the team. He was animated and the team were attentive. Despite the extravagant contribution from TBFTE, in the absence of their other leading goal scorers Avondale were not going to simply outgun the opposition tonight.

The team responded well to the entreaties of their de-facto coach and played a very solid quarter. I’ve noticed both Eakins and Brooks finding “Binder” with the long cross pass and when it’s delivered on target he misses few. Avondale’s old keeper managed to block out a couple of strong shots with the effective use of his face, he’s probably getting too slow to avoid them now. This resistance, coupled with a much tighter defence frustrated Reading and Avondale eased into a three goal advantage for the final quarter.

But, the game was far from dead and Rocky paid scant attention to the remaining Marmite sandwich crumbs beneath his seat, rapt with the entertainment as the whistle started the final quarter. He knew that three goals might not be enough given how dominant Reading had been during the second quarter, playing into the deep end. Again, the home team started well with immediate pressure on the Avondale goal. But somehow they could not turn the advantage into goals and the minutes slipped by. Avondale were getting no change in the shallow end and their Captain, the indomitable King Louis, was unable to use the bottom of the pool as effectively as the defenders. Reading pulled a goal back but Avondale stayed strong and over four minutes into the quarter Binder took another good cross pass wide on the left and bounced the ball high into the net, effectively sealing the win. Reading pulled another back but it was too late and the visitors ran out worthy winners in a very entertaining contest.

As the teams headed for their mandatory post match re-hydration, Rocky and I trotted out into the cool night satisfied with the reward for our long journey.

Otter 1 v Avondale 1 (London Premiership 17 April 2008)

From The South London Correspondent:

Otter I 10 – Avondale I 15 (London League, 17 April 2008)

The University pool at Mallet Street always has a quiet bustle about it, a sense of activity. The Penguin ladies seemed reluctant to cede the water to the Avondale players and there were people on both sides of the pool, busy with setting up this season opener for these two quality sides. I missed this fixture last season, being inside a Burka somewhere in Afghanistan, but from the snatches of conversation I had overheard, Otter won the contest convincingly from the start. Their recent haul of Kiwis and usual meticulous preparation easily overcame the irrepressible joie-de-vivre of Avondale.

Avondale seem to coalesce at away fixtures rather than arrive, they happily ‘bump into one another’ in pool receptions across London and chat as if unmindful of the contest that will precede their later refreshments. Last year, they got "stuffed" by all accounts, but they seemed just as relaxed as ever as I passed them on my way through the reception tonight.

Both teams seemed to have close to a full squad in attendance, although I noticed that Avondale’s 007 was absent, one rumour had it that Otter could not get extra insurance cover for their goalposts at short notice, but I suspected a woman’s hand!

The referee used the simple and effective ruse of starting both sets of players at the two meter mark for the drop to remove the advantage of the pool side… now why didn’t I think of that! Avondale were clearly better organised than last year with the influential Mark Bind at the centre of their pre-game chat, and it showed from the outset. Otter won the swim and looked as well drilled and sharp as ever with clean passing around the arc. For a change Avondale looked solid in defence. They have always had good defenders, one or two or them exceptionally so, but they seemed ‘tighter’ tonight.

Otter sometimes over elaborate. I guess if you have a coach with a clipboard you need to have something to show for it, and they have a couple of players with outstanding shots who found the goal corners twice in the first quarter, but they were being kept out of the pit and when the ball did come in the Avondale defence was quick to jump back and reclaim the ball. It was a tight and absorbing quarter which Avondale ended up winning 3 -2. At this point I must mention Avondale’s “wild card”. I heard someone refer to “The Beast from the East” whilst they were engaged in their usual animated banter on the pool side before the game, this surely is Konrad. It was my first glimpse of this ex Hungarian national player, and whilst he’s some way from his youthful best you will go a long way to see a more entertaining player in this league. He opened with what I gather is a trademark pull past a defensive player on the right wing, but the referee saw some foul play and gave Otter the ball. My Hungarian is a little rusty, but it would seem that the referee knows enough to suggest that he was unimpressed with Konrad’s suggestion as to his credentials. Konrads’s second intervention was a successful version of the first, this time he rounded the defender who for some inexplicable reason seemed powerless to interfere, and whilst the rest of us, including their very competent keeper were either looking somewhere else or blinking, somehow contrived to have the ball hit the back of the net.

By way of a small digression, I am told that the Hungarian language has a very wide selection of swear words and phrases. My Internet research on this point would tend to confirm this as it revealed a substantial choice, from which my persona favourite (translated) is : “I'll tear your head off and vomit into your lung”.

The game remained tight in the second quarter. Avondale’s seasoned keeper failed to get out of the way of several good shots and at the other end Wayne “The Sniper” Jacobs was holding the defence’s attention, but was not converting at his accustomed rate. Otter’s sharp shooters managed to hit the inside wood and top corner with impressive shooting, but the Avondale defence kept them under pressure and at a distance.

The game turned in the third quarter. The fabulously consistent “Binder” opened with a pinpoint bottom corner shot from a foul on six or seven meters and Avondale’s excellent defence had what is technically referred to as “a blinder”. Dave “Stretch” Standley, lived up to his name with some excellent improbably distant steals, Moorhouse was impregnable and the keeper pulled off an unlikely save moving across the whole goal to deny Otter an inevitable score and blocking another point blank backhand with his wizened head. Two penalties drawn from aggressive drives around the rock solid “Tank” in the pit and a late steal and break from “Stretch” capped off an excellent quarter for the visitors. Judging by the somewhat ironic cheer that issued from the whole squad when Stretch beat the keeper on both of his one-on-one breaks the confidence with which he finished tonight may not reflect his normal modus operandi!

The quarter ended with Avondale six clear and baring accidents, past the post. There were no accidents and whilst they did let their foot off the gas a little the game had moved beyond Otter. There was a suggestion from one of the Avondale players that at five down and within the last minute that Otter’s last timeout was a chance for the coach to write their drinks order on the clipboard; you never can tell.

It promises to be an eventful season…..

"Real Avondale" Open in Surrey - 14 April 2008

From The South London Correspondent:

Real Avondale 12 – Croydon II 10 (Surrey League, 14 April 2008)

It felt good to be back at Putney after so long. The coarse sand of the Middle East and the dry dust of Africa replaced by the all too familiar tang of chlorine put me in mind of so many nerve tingling battles at here. The old building is sporting a new fresh look and as I surveyed the shimmering azure water from my lofty eyrie at the back of the stands I thought could detected that same fresh spirit in both teams as we set forth together into another London Water Polo League Season. My fellow spectators, a solitary gentleman hunched, unmoving in concentration on the front row (he later became alarmingly animated when one of the young Croydon boys was excluded from the game) and a few rows away a woman with two small children completed what is a substantial gathering by Avondale standards.

The referee called the teams together and I recognised one of Avondale’s old campaigners at the ‘table’, his familiar bald head glinting under the bright lights, having been in the ‘cage’ a week before at the equivalent First team away fixture. I scanned the team sheets and could see both the Avondale Captain, Blayney, and one of their more reliable goal scorers, Jonckers were both absent. I sensed that this could be a problem, because although Croydon had only brought a sparse eight players, they had a good balance of experience and youth. Without two of their more mobile players I sensed that Real might find the pace difficult to sustain.

My instincts were spot on. Real looked ponderous in attack and in truth rarely threatened the Croydon goal in the first quarter – clearly lacking the pace and enthusiasm that their captain always brings. On the other hand Croydon were positively feisty! Their young players set about the Real defence with gusto and combined with the wily Jotic in the pit and the ever solid Leach directing operations from the rear were in no time five unanswered goals to the good.

I must admit that had it not been the first home game of the season I might have contemplated slipping quietly from the scene to “do an armchair” on the rest of the match report. Even the normally attentive Rocky seemed disaffected and I could hear him shoring gently under my seat as the teams gathered themselves for the second quarter. It was as well that I remained because by the end of the second quarter the match had a very different complexion indeed. Real had finally managed to find the net and the score for the quarter ended even at three apiece. However that was of less significance than was the mounting majors count for Croydon.

The game looked effectively over as a contest after one quarter and it was really only a series of naive and pointless infringements by a couple of the younger Croydon players that undermined what should have been an easy victory against an oddly toothless Real.

But that is sport. The table waved the red flag part way through the second quarter for one of the Croydon players and the warning bells should have been ringing loud and clear at half time when another player was on two majors and they were down to a bare seven. Croydon’s show came off the rails early in the third quarter when something and nothing of an incident resulted in some strident verbal advice being proffered to the referee. This isn’t football, where referees prostrate themselves with masochistic somnambulance before players, managers and supporters. Guess what, shock horror, who would have thought it, the referee pointed to the corner! The table waved the red flag quietly in the background, and then there were six! Real inevitably lost the “Combined Harvester” in the fourth quarter, but by his standards it was a good return of Polo for his customary three major fouls. After my time away it is nice to see that some things never change.

With the best part of half a game to go and a deficit at that point of four goals, the game still had a frisson of excitement left as Real set about their task in a particularly clueless fashion. They didn’t immediately press the ball and in the absence of a shot clock that is clearly not a winning strategy. However, after suitable encouragement from their temporary coach they began to throw their Anaconda like coils around Croydon. The victim was inexorably suffocated and they slipped under as the game was stolen from them.

The final score of 12 – 10 was an unlikely result given the 0 – 5 score after the first quarter and Croydon will have left kicking themselves for throwing this one away. Rocky and I left with a spring in our steps at the prospect of a whole season of such entertainment.

London League 1 - 7 April 2008

From The South London Correspondent:

Croydon I 10 - Avondale I 12 (London League, 7 April 2008)

This was my first visit to the new facility at Whitgift School, having spent the previous season unavoidably absent as a result of several regional conflicts – such is life and war! It’s a considerable improvement on the old pool and nice to see that someone thought to provide a deep pool for Water Polo, they are too few and far between.

Croydon have aspirations in all competitions this season and with some talented old hands and some rapidly improving youngsters they have a lot of potential. Avondale are much the same as I remember them; relaxed seemingly to the point of indifference on occasions, they still have a wealth of talent to call on and are a difficult team to beat.

Avondale led from the start and could have been seven or eight goals clear by half time. Croydon have an excellent young keeper (they are all young compared with the wizened old goat the Avondale keep trotting out) who stopped several good shots, but the people looking most nervous were the pool management. Their nice new goal posts took a terrible drubbing from the lightning fast shots of Avondale’s “007” and “The Sniper”. On tonight’s showing Avondale should bring some spare timber and a Black and Decker when “007” is playing.

Croydon have several dangerous shooters and will always score goals if they are not marked. Perhaps Avondale were far enough clear in the last quarter that they could afford to be somewhat relaxed in their close marking – although perhaps I’m being charitable and the big pool had taken its toll by then. In any event Croydon were too far down for their comeback to really threaten the final result, but it made for a more exciting last few minutes for Rocky and me.