The Australian Women’s Water Polo team has won the bronze medal at the FINA World Championships after taking down European powerhouse Hungary 10-9 in a thrilling final.
It’s a great confidence boost for the Aussie Stingers just one year out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with the World Championships the last major tournament ahead of the Olympics.
The stage was set for an epic showdown, the last time these two sides played for a bronze medal was the London 2012 Olympic Games where Australia also won the bronze after the game went into overtime.
Dual Olympian and Captain of the Aussie Stingers, Rowie Webster, said her team couldn’t be happier with the bronze medal this close to Tokyo 2020.
“I’m obviously really happy to get a bronze medal at the World Championships. Hungary is a phenomenal team,” said Webster.
“They (Hungary) took us every step of the way and they came down to the very last attack in the very last defence.
“We’re just happy that we’re on the right side of the win, so we’re really, really happy. I think both teams made mistakes and I think it’s a matter of just quickly getting over them and being able to capitalise on your opportunities, and that’s exactly what we did, I think we capitalised on more opportunities than they did,” she said
Australian Women’s Assistant Coach and NSWIS Water Polo Women’s Head Coach Bec Rippon said the Aussie Stingers strong defensive game is what got them the medal.
“We knew Hungary was a high-scoring team and at three up we knew we were not out of the woods,” said Rippon.
“Our defence was critical and in the critical situations we put away the goals. We showed a lot of courage and fight and we had the water polo elements. We showed in critical moments we could put it together,” she said.
Rio Olympian Hannah Buckling came out firing for the Australians to put them on the board in the first 30 seconds of the match, quickly followed up by her Rio team mate Zoe Arancini and triple Olympian Bron Knox to give the Stingers an early lead 3-0. But the Hungarians kicked into a new gear taking three in a row to lock up scores at the end of the first period 3-3.
The second quarter saw the Buckling, Knox and Arancini combination put another four goals on the board for the Aussies to take a 7-6 lead at half time.
At half time it was clear the match would go down to the wire, with each team only scoring one goal a piece in the third quarter to allow the Aussies to hold their lead 8-7 leading into the final period.
The Aussie charge continued in the fourth with Bronte Halligan and captain Rowie Webster lifting Australia three clear. Hungary from the top left along with a penalty goal put them back in the match with just over two minutes left in the game.
While it looked like the Aussies just needed to run down the clock, Hungary regained possession and with four seconds left on the clock called a time out. They were hoping to do something big, but the Australian defence was too tough and the Stingers held on to the win to claim the bronze medal.
Australia won the inaugural World Championship title in 1986 and has since added two silvers and now two bronze medals to the cabinet.
Image Credit: Orange Pictures
AUSTRALIA 10 HUNGARY 9
Quarters: 3-3, 4-3, 1-1, 2-2
Extra man: AUS: 3/7. HUN: 5/13.
Penalties: AUS: 1/1. HUN: 1/1.
AUSTRALIA: Gabriella Palm, Keesja Gofers, Hannah Buckling (2), Bronte Halligan (1), Isobel Bishop, Bronwen Knox (2), Rowie Webster (1), Amy Ridge (1), Zoe Arancini (3), Lena Mihailovic, Elle Armit, Madeleine Steere, Lea Yanitsis. Head Coach: Predrag Mihailovic.