Water polo is fast, highly competitive and exhausting—and Dr Rachael Hogen-Esch of Opulent Dental in Falcon, WA, wouldn’t have it any other way.
We’re a mixed bag of women who play for the Peel Water Polo Club in Rockingham. There are students, police officers, government workers, teachers, stay-at-home mums, and quite a few dentists.
“Water polo is a game that happens above and below the water. While everyone is playing by the rules on the surface, it can be brutal under the water line. Basically, if the umpire can’t see it, you can get away with it.
“Our competition consists of eight teams and it’s very bitterly contested. Sure, we are all friends after the game but everyone is playing to win. Friends out of the water, enemies in the water. My team made the grand final last year but lost by a goal.
“Water polo is played in four seven-minute quarters. Whenever a team takes possession of the ball, they have 30 seconds to make a shot. The game tends to move from one end of the pool to the other so every 30 seconds you’re swimming a 25 metre sprint. Your feet never touch the bottom of the pool during a game so it’s a pretty exhausting sport.
“A water polo player has to play defense and attack. All our training is done in the pool and we organise our own strengthening regime out of the water. The egg beater kick where you move your feet in a figure eight pattern is very intensive. When done properly, it gets your body high out of the water and is a great way to defend the goal or gain leverage when shooting.
“As well as the city competition, I play in a team for the country association. The highlight is the long weekend in March when we all meet somewhere and have a full weekend of water polo.
“There’s a great social aspect to water polo. After the games, we’ll hit whichever bar will have us with our wet hair and trackies. I love the camaraderie that goes with team sports.
“When I was growing up, my sports were netball and basketball. I also did a lot of swimming but found it really boring. Following that black line up and down the pool drove me mad but I became a good swimmer. So, in regard to sport, there are two things I’m good at: swimming and passing a ball. The decision to give water polo a shot was a no-brainer—it’s the best of both worlds.”