Torpedoes showing exciting signs for future

UWA Torpedoes men’s coach Damian Kelly is seeing plenty of encouraging signs from his youthful team but he still believes they can try to push the pace faster and press better to try and make up for what they are lacking in size and experience.

Upon taking over as coach for the 2019 OVO Australian Water Polo League season, Kelly always knew that the Torpedoes would be backing an increasingly youthful team and with that, they would need to play to their strengths.

Over the course of the first eight games, the Torpedoes have constantly found themselves on the wrong end of the penalty and exclusion count with Kelly putting much of that down to his players being penalised for trying to make up for the size they are giving up battling for position.

While it’s a source of frustration to a degree, Kelly knows it’s something that will come better in time with his young players as they slowly bulk up and gain more experience at national league level.

As they prepare for the first home games of the season this Thursday and Saturday at HBF Stadium against the Balmain Tigers, Kelly is hoping to see the Torpedoes press a bit more and smarter in order to hopefully stop hearing the whistle blown so regularly.

“It’s happening with the new rules and they are quite technical with the penalties. We’re a light team and we are trying to stop the ball coming in from the wings, then the ball gets in and the centre forwards are getting position on us,” Kelly said.

“They are bigger and stronger, and we are giving penalties away because we’re not big and strong enough yet. We need to stop the ball getting in on the wings and if we are committed to the press, we play press.

“We probably haven’t committed to that enough so we are letting the ball in on the wing and that’s why the penalties are coming. We need to get more confident to press and even press to foul, and once the foul is inside five we can drop back.

“We just have to be quicker to process that if someone is strong enough to press back and hold, and pass to the centre forward, that we have to be equally as strong to not allow that pass. That will come with confidence, time and maturity.”

What Kelly wanted his young Torpedoes team this year to become known for was their fitness and how fast of a pace they played at to hopefully wear down their bigger bodied and more experienced opponents.

He saw that happen at times last Saturday night in the four-goal loss to the Fremantle Mariners at Bicton Pool, but felt they could have pushed it even more and hopes they do that in the two games this week against Balmain.

“I think they can still push it faster. Even in the derby there were a couple of times early when we had targeted some of their bigger players to outswim them, but we didn’t take them on the counterattack,” he said.

“We have to be more confident with that and have more self-belief to back ourselves. We need to go really hard, get to two, cross pass and shoot the goal. We have to believe in ourselves and the young players will over time.”

As for the performance on Saturday night in the derby against an experienced and strong Fremantle team featuring the likes of Joel Swift, Clancy Neesham and Tim Neesham among others, Kelly liked a lot of what he saw.

He was looking for a response following the two losses in Adelaide and while they didn’t quite win, there was a lot to like in the performance.

“I’m really proud of their performance. We had five or six guys born in 2001, a couple in 2002 and I’m super proud. We’ll be a good little side in a couple of years’ time as they grow up,” he said.

“We talked about responding from those games in Adelaide. The first Adelaide game was really disappointing and it was our worst game for the year.

“In the second Adelaide game we got close and we probably should have won it, but we didn’t and that’s life. We set ourselves up for a really big game in the derby and the kids stepped up and had a crack, and were fantastic.”

Two players that Kelly was especially happy for was Lewis Putt who scored three goals in the fourth quarter and debutant Lachie Emanuel who scored in his first appearance at national league level.

“I was yelling at Lewy to take more shots as well. It’s really good for him to get those three goals and I’m really pleased for him to do well,” Kelly said.

“His confidence is going to go through the roof and from the first game he played against Sydney Uni to now, he’s come on in leaps and bounds. He just needs to play more games of water polo.

“He (Emanuel) scored early and he had all his school mates there to watch. I’m sure he bought them all meat pies on Tuesday when he went back to school. For him to still be at school and slot at a goal in a derby at national league level is a huge achievement.”