New skipper Hughes looks ahead to first home clash for Torpedoes

THE UWA Torpedoes hit their home pool this week for the first time in the 2017 National Water Polo League season with Nick Hughes to play his first game as captain at UWA Aquatic Centre, and he’s looking forward to it after 11 road games.

Following the Torpedoes breaking through to win last year’s men’s NWPL premiership, captain Luke Quinlivan decided to step down as captain on the ultimate high as he enters the final season of his glittering career.

Hughes was voted as the new captain with the 22-year-old premiership winner having now led the team into battle in the opening 11 games of the 2017 season on the road.

Torpedoes men hit home pool for first time as reigning champs 
UWA men learn plenty from week-long trip to Sydney 

The results were two wins apiece over the Adelaide Jets and Barbarians along with a victory over the Fremantle Mariners at Bicton Pool before two wins from the six games on the Sydney road trip.

The Torpedoes now finally hit their home pool for the first time since winning last year’s premiership to take on the UTS Balmain Tigers this Thursday and Saturday nights.

It’s the start of a run of 11 consecutive games at home for UWA to finish the 2017 season in the run into the finals. Hughes is looking forward to getting in that home pool to host some interstate visitors.

“Obviously we train in the pool and it might sound a bit silly, but you get used to shooting at the goals that you practice shooting against,” Hughes said.

“Even the water temperature is very different in the pools in Sydney, and we are used to the chlorine here when there’s salt in some pools at the other places.

“Even just the feel of the pool and everything like that it makes it a lot easier and then you have your family and friends watching and supporting you, and getting in the ear of the other team.

“It does make it a lot easier to play here and hopefully we can convert some good games in the second half of the season.”

Hughes is looking forward to the chance to both play in front of the UWA supporters for the first time this year but also to play well in their home pool and to improve on their 7-4 record from the 11 games away from home.

“We obviously have a lot of people who support the team and sponsor the team and volunteer towards the team in some way, and we haven’t really had the chance to hang out with them since we picked up the title last year,” he said.

“We hope there’s a few people here and hopefully we can come out hard, and really play well.

“We felt we were building on the back end of the Sydney road trip even though we should have been slowing down by the fifth and sixth games. But I felt like we had lost ourselves for a bit in the middle and then came back to play some alright polo.”

The Torpedoes run of 11 games away from home concluded with the six-day, six-game trip to Sydney.

That’s never easy and Hughes certainly felt the extra intensity that the Drummoyne Devils, Sydney Uni Lions and Cronulla Sharks played against them with on the back of UWA’s title win in 2016.

“Six games in six days is very tough. We played good opposition as well and it’s really good to have that done now,” Hughes said.

“You kind of feel like the teams are a bit upset that we won it last year so they are coming at us with something more than just a normal game. It’s like they are coming for you as well as the win. It’s a new position for us but I think we are handling it OK.”

The Torpedoes could have hardly been handed a more challenging start to their title defence than the 11 road games, but Hughes is reasonably happy with how they responded.

The other positive out of the week-long trip to Sydney is that it would hold UWA in good stead for the finals later this season which will be held there this year.

“We’ve obviously played our first 11 games on the road which is a hard way to start the next season after winning the championship, but it’s been a good challenge,” he said.

“We’ve picked up seven wins and probably could have had more, or maybe we could have lost one or two that we did end up winning, so at the end of the day you will probably take where we’re at right now.

“That six-day road trip and even the four-day road trip that we started off with are really good to build your season off.

“You build your game fitness really well in those weeks and six games in six days is tough, but then three games in three days looks a lot easier after you’ve done something like that. Coming into finals if we make it, I think we’ll be pretty well positioned to have a pretty good crack at it again.”

With Quinlivan standing down as captain after last season’s title win, Hughes was proud to be appointed skipper while aged just 22.

He is also glad to be able to be captain while Quinlivan is still playing and with his support still being there.

“Obviously Quinny has been a big part of this club for a long time and he is a very good leader, and everybody still looks up to him and respects him as a leader in the club,” Hughes said.

“But he had a child earlier this year and he has work commitments so he’s had to tone down his level of commitment towards the team because he didn’t have the time.

“He wanted to step down while he could help someone transitioning into the role. The boys were happy to select me and I’m grateful of that, and hopefully I’m doing an alright job and we can go somewhere.”

UWA water polo has been a big part of Hughes and his family’s life for a long time and now to be captain of the club is another proud moment.

“I’ve been a part of the club for a long time, I’ve played with the boys I’m playing with for a long time and it’s obviously the highest honour in a team,” he said.

“They back you to lead them into battle and sometimes that’s what it comes to, you are going all out against another team. To be leading that is quite a privilege.”

Hughes is also looking forward to now playing at home at UWA to have the things in their favour that some of the interstate teams had working for them to make life difficult for the Torpedoes.

“I think we run a slightly tighter ship here and we are a bit more fair than some of the team’s interstate,” he said.

“There were some questionable things happening while we were over there but coming back here hopefully we can get the crowd in the opposition’s ear to try and put them off.

“Then we are getting sounds and stuff into the game this year and hopefully that puts them off a bit while we can get used to it to create an artificial home ground advantage.”

Hughes is also looking forward to seeing the increased support that the Torpedoes will receive in 2017 on the back of their premiership win last year.

“Everyone obviously likes a winner. You just have to look at AFL clubs and membership grows when they’re winning so I don’t think it will be any different for us,” Hughes said.

“People coming down and watching us get smashed by 10 goals is not going to last for long, so I feel we’ve helped in that sense and we’ve got a good team together this year, and are having a good crack.

“We want people to come down and watch, and it’s hard because they can’t watch us in the finals where it all happens but I still think they will be interested in seeing how we have all grown up and developed.

“When those people who have been around for a long time might get that sense of pride to see how it all unfolds.”