Author: Dafydd Jones
Wales water polo’s head coach of the senior women development squad Darryl Ward has hailed the special feeling after the return of competitive action.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Wales Water Polo sides were unable to compete during a frustrating time.
Fast-forward to now and the Welsh ladies squad have been competing in the EU Nations 2021, held in Brno, Czech Republic.
Ward expressed that returning to competitive water polo was a fantastic feeling.
“You can’t put words on it. The smile on the girls’ faces in the competition, the comradery that they’ve got as a group.
“It’s been brilliant to get back competing in the pool, especially as we were the only home nations team to attend.
“The girls made a commitment when we got back in the pool in May to say that they wanted to go and that’s what we did.
“They’ve done brilliantly to do what they did and be as competitive as they were.”
The Welsh ladies squad started their campaign with a dramatic 11-11 draw with hosts Czech Republic, before falling to defeats to South Africa and Switzerland respectively.
In the final two fixtures, Wales claimed a remarkable 10-4 victory over Austria, with a defeat to Czech Republic in the final game securing a sixth place finish.
Ward conveyed that there are huge positives to take from a number of spirited performances.
“We take a lot of pride from it. The result doesn’t show how much work the girls put in and isn’t a true reflection of how they played as a squad, how much they’ve improved as a group since they got back in the pool in May.
“I’m very pleased with the performances of the squad. They hadn’t played a competitive game in two years.
“They did exactly what was asked of them and competed well in every game, which is all we can ask of them.”
From the dramatic draw with Czech Republic to the impressive victory over Austria, Wales’ campaign was an eventful one.
Ward expressed that there are a number of memorable moments to take from the competition.
“There were a lot of highlights for us. The way the girls came back from the opening game against the Czech Republic, being four goals down going into the last quarter to get it back to an 11-11 draw. We didn’t concede a single shot on goal in that last quarter.
“The way we played against the Swiss, the finalists. We restricted their free-flowing game, defended well and attacked against them.
“The win against Austria was brilliant and in the competition, all of our outfield players scored, which is a huge plus. They surpassed all of my expectations and a really good weekend for us.”
With the Wales ladies’ squad having their first taste of competitive action in two years, the experience of representing their country and competing at the highest level will be invaluable.
Ward conveyed that the campaign could be the start of an exciting time for water polo in Wales.
“Hopefully, it’s the first step in a new journey. We head into the Commonwealth tournament, which is going to be next year.
“We’ve also got the EU’s next year. We’re hoping to get some friendlies and internationals played throughout the year, so it’s a massive first step on a journey going forward.
“The girls are all on board, everyone is working towards the same thing.”