The State’s best water polo players outside the metropolitan area will be on show in Bunbury later this month.
The Bendigo Bank WA Country Championships will be staged at the South West Sports Centre on February 27-March 1 with six men’s and six women’s teams competing.
Bunbury women will be gunning for their third consecutive crown and Geraldton men will be hoping to retain its title against some fierce competition, none more so than Busselton, who lost the title last year at home.
Headed by one of the greats of Australian water polo, Kylie English, Bunbury is at short odds to carry off the title with its experienced line-up of Australian State and WA State players.
Veteran English, a World Cup champion and former Australian captain, will be joined by fellow Australian Country players Alice Rotheram, Chelsea Barrett and Tash O’Neill.
Rotheram and Barrett represented Australia in Hawaii last year while Rotheram and O’Neill toured Europe the previous year.
Chelsea Rotheram, Nicole Hearn and Eboney Franklyn are also State players out to impress.
English was named most valuable player for both the tournament and the grand final last year.
Bunbury men finished runner-up in Busselton last year and will be hoping to go one better at home this year.
Heading the Bunbury charge will be Jarrod English, Kylie’s son, and Lee Stiles. English is a bustling and bruising centre forward with a rocket shot while Stiles went to Hawaii with the Australian Country team last year.
Youthful goalkeeper Jack Deschamp was the MVP for last year’s grand final and another youngster who should impress is Alix English, Jarrod’s brother.
The freshness of the team should prove the impetus needed to topple Geraldton from its pedestal.
Busselton is fronting with a men’s team while some of its women players have been drafted to the Port Hedland team.
Former Australian star Sandra Morris returns to major action with Karratha women, which also contains the energetic Anouska Angove.
Her husband Justin Angove heads the men’s team and both have wide experience in the National Water Polo League.
Peel always fields strong line-ups, while a Composite team will play in the women’s division.
The weekend also doubles as a selection for the Australian Country Championships, which will be staged in Karratha at Easter.
The championships start with four matches on Friday night, February 27, followed by two full days of action with the gold-medal finals late on Sunday afternoon.
Referees have been appointed by the WA Country Association with Gary Payne overseeing Liz Burman, Fiona Haigh and Gavin McMahon the independent officials from Perth while teams will front with a referee each.