A sustained commitment to improving their performances led to several accolades for the Madibaz Water Polo Club at the Nelson Mandela Bay Aquatics awards evening in Gqeberha this month.
Not only was the women’s team named club of the year, left back Ashleigh Vaughan was voted player and athlete of the year.
Honours blazers were presented to coach Delaine Mentoor, goalkeeper Meghan Maartens and Vaughan, while a colours blazer went to utility player Erin Harty.
Maartens and Vaughan represented South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics and also competed in the world championships in Hungary this year. Harty was a member of the national U20 team that attended the 2021 worlds.
Mentoor, who is also the national women’s coach, guided the Madibaz to a maiden title in the domestic Currie Cup tournament in East London in March.
Madibaz water polo manager Melinda Goosen outlined the strategy they had established in recent years to drive the growth of the sport at Nelson Mandela University.
“We have spent the last four years building a platform and a lot of work has been put into it to ensure a successful outcome,” she said.
“The whole exercise is developing into a high-performance programme and we are seeing the results of that commitment.
“We realise that we still have a long way to go but ensuring that there is a strong base from which to work is essential.”
Goosen added that they had realised that they needed to capitalise on the talent in their ranks – from both a playing and coaching perspective.
“This has been a long time coming because of the rich talent we have had in the past six years,” she said. “We have been privileged to have had very good coaches at Madibaz who played key roles in our successes.
“Building on those achievements and the challenges we have faced in previous years has enabled us to create a solid high-performance structure at Madibaz Water Polo.”
She said Mentoor, a former Madibaz and national star, had made a significant contribution to the club.
“She has been critical in the success, not only of the team but also of the individual achievements of the players.”
Goosen said they were delighted about the recognition that their members had received because it was reward for the long hours in the pool.
“These awards are also a strong indication that we are on the right track and from now we basically need to ensure we maintain the sustainability of the programme.”
The club had a “very good feeding system from Nelson Mandela Bay schools” that enabled them to retain top talent, she added.
Goosen said the players were now focusing on the University Sport SA tournament due to take place in Durban in December.