Two extra goals could lift Torpedoes in finals says Quinlivan

RETIRING UWA Torpedoes champion Luke Quinlivan is proud of the team to qualify again for the National Water Polo League finals again in 2017 despite the adversity and he hopes they can find a couple extra goals a game the next three days in Sydney.

Quinlivan has made the decision that 2017 will be the final season of his remarkable water polo career that was highlighted with the NWPL premiership with the Torpedoes last season, but has included 319 national league games along with being a regular Australian representative.

The 31-year-old will go down as one of the country’s greatest goalkeepers and it’s hard to argue at this point he is the Torpedoes best player in the NWPL as he now prepares for the last weekend of his career.

Torpedoes take on Barracudas in NWPL elimination final 
Quinny proud of how far Torpedoes have come in his career 

Quinlivan’s form remains outstanding and his body good enough to play, but quite simply the commitment of being a husband and father of one and soon to be two, and being able to properly focus on his career mean that this has to be his last season at the Torpedoes.

Coming off captaining the Torpedoes to last season’s breakthrough triumph and by doing so in style against the Victorian Seals in a penalty shootout in the grand final, it would have been disappointing if Quinlivan didn’t get one last finals appearance.

He will get that with the Torpedoes finishing the season in fifth position to set up an elimination final against the Brisbane Barracudas in Sydney on Friday. Win that and they are into the semi finals on Saturday playing for a spot in a second straight grand final.

Coming off last year’s premiership victory, the Torpedoes were dealt a blow on the eve of the 2017 season with the news that Olympian George Ford had been ruled out with a shoulder injury and prospective import Matej Nastran who wasn’t able to make it.

That meant that while leaders like Quinlivan, Brett McGhie, Florian Naroska and Tom Beare, it is a remarkably young Torpedoes squad led by new captain Nick Hughes.

All that makes Quinlivan proud that the Torpedoes have made it back to the finals despite that adversity.

“Coming into this season with all the stars aligning the way we wanted with George playing the full season and having Matej join the squad, the mindset of the team would have been fixed on potentially backing up winning a premiership, which isn’t necessarily a good thing because it can take the focus off the here and the now,” Quinlivan said.

“But given the adversity we have suffered, it’s channelled everyone’s focus on fixing the in-game process and work a system that brings a result.

“I don’t think anybody’s been thinking so much been thinking about carrying the pressure of being reigning premiers, the guys have suffered losses to our list at the beginning of the season and the focus has been on getting back on task.

“We are now seeing a good spread across the pool in our attacking game and if the guys can find one or two more per game we are definitely in the mix.”

For the most part, Quinlivan is happy enough with the way the Torpedoes are playing heading into the finals starting with Friday’s clash with the Barracudas.

It hasn’t been easy to make it back to the finals, though, for the defending champions with a target squarely on their back throughout 2017 because of their success last year.

Then without George Ford and Nastran, things became more difficult and put more pressure on someone like German powerhouse Naroska to spend virtually the whole game at centre forward.

But with young players like Hughes, Lach Pethick, Jed Thompson, Tom Powell, Andrew Ford, Tim Putt, Christian Kyriakou and Tom Rigoll standing up, the Torpedoes not only have done well in 2017 but have a bright future.

“I think the team is in a very good place in certain areas and there are other areas where we need to make some improvement if we want to achieve success at finals,” he said.

“The team suffered huge adversity at the beginning of the season with the news that George was injured and out for the full season, and then Matej Nastran who was our proposed utility centre forward, centre back wasn’t able to get into Australia.

“That has put a lot of extra strain and pressure on someone like Florian who has had to play seven minutes a quarter at centre forward, which is almost an unaskable task. He has obviously taken that on really and Alex Bogunovich has provided good back up support.

“Given the knocks the team has had in that respect, I’m really pleased with how we’ve adjusted. If you go back two years and beyond or even to last year, the club traditionally relied on one or two key players to make everything happen in attack.”

While Quinlivan is reasonably happy with the Torpedoes form entering the finals, he knows they will need to improve in Sydney to firstly advance to a semi-final and then get to a second straight grand final.

He is happy enough with their defensive efforts and remains confident in his own ability to stop the opposition scoring heavily, but if the Torpedoes can find a way to score a couple more goals a game he believes that could make all the difference in the world.

“This year Florian has generated a lot of exclusions at centre forward and might be averaging a goal a game, but we have Nick Hughes, Lachie Pethick, Andrew Ford and even Tim Putt, Christian Kyriakou and Tom Powell who can contribute the majority of our goals now,” Quinlivan said.

“Under pressure games against Wests or Barras, Brett McGhie can always step up when we’ve needed him to. Seeing that spread occur given we haven’t been looking to one or two key import or marquee players has been a really positive thing to see, and it’s happened very quickly.

“Usually these types of things might take two or three seasons to develop but I’m really pleased that the guys have managed to turn that around as quickly as they have. In terms of the overall season, if I’m being honest we need to be two goals better per game against the top teams if we want to win this.

“Whether we achieve that in our defensive or attacking end, it doesn’t really matter but we are about two or three goals behind the pace at the moment.

“Scoring five or six goals a game against the top two sides, and six or seven against the next two to three I would say the logical place to look would be how to convert our extra man a little better, and where we can capitalise on an extra one or two counter attacks a game.

“We’ve always generated good counter attacks and extra man opportunities so there’s definitely something there for the guys to tap into.”