Madibaz water polo coach Delaine Christian has made a big impact on the sport at Nelson Mandela University this year. Photo: Supplied
After earning the women’s bronze medal at the University Sport South Africa week and capturing the Port Elizabeth men’s league title, the Madibaz Water Polo Club can look back on a highly satisfactory year.
The successes over the past 11 months have provided a boost for the club, with coach Delaine Christian saying they had set the bar for the years ahead.
Christian, herself, was at the forefront of the recognition Nelson Mandela University water polo received as she was named coach of the year at the varsity’s annual Achiever Awards function.
She said one of the highlights this year was their third-place finish at the USSA tournament in Johannesburg, having approached the week without any major expectations.
“At the beginning of the season we had a different view because then we were definitely aiming for a top three,” said Christian. “Just before going to the tournament, however, two key players had to pull out because of various reasons.
“This meant we went to the week with a very small and inexperienced team, only two of whom had previously attended the tournament. So we knew it would be difficult.”
She added they had not put any pressure on themselves and approached it with the idea of playing hard and to play as a team, while also making sure it was fun.
“To come third (behind winners UCT and Stellenbosch) was way above what we had imagined, especially as we had ended fourth or fifth in the last three years.
“It’s an amazing result and we know now that we are capable of so much more.”
Christian said good management had been one of the keys to their success, as well as a team that worked well together.
“This year was the first time we trained throughout and we had a really good structure in place.”
Madibaz water polo manager Melinda Goosen said it was equally satisfying to win the local men’s league.
“It was very well contested throughout and the men’s league is highly competitive. For our team to pull off the win was a real feather in their caps.”
She added that those successes had been part of “an incredible season” for Madibaz water polo.
“We ran our first winter water polo five-a-side tournament, had several players in the provincial teams and some in the SA women’s squad.”
Goosen said Christian – who is an U17 and U19 national selector – had made a major impact in water polo at the varsity.
She mentored the Madibaz women’s team to the NMB league title in 2016-17 and was instrumental in establishing men’s and women’s second teams.