They may have missed out on gold medals in their National Water Polo League finals debut but there is no doubt Tauranga Water Polo Club athletes left their mark in the competition.

The Body in Motion Tauranga women's team finished their first Honda National Water Polo League (HNWPL) finals at the weekend in second place after going down to defending champions North Harbour Carlton Party Hire while the Body in Motion Tauranga Men's team placed fourth.

Head coach Lionel Randall says both teams did well but it was a lack of finals experience at New Zealand's premier domestic water polo competition that let them down, something both sides now have.

The women managed to hold on to a 4-4 score at the end of the first quarter of their gold medal-final against defending champions North Harbour who proved too strong for Tauranga. North Harbour's victory over Tauranga women meant they won their seventh National league title since 2003.

Advertisement

North Harbour asserted their authority, scoring five answered goals (Kaitlin Howarth, Emily Nicholson, Caitlin Lopes da Silva [2], Jaz Myles with a penalty) in the second quarter, to be a head 9-4 at half time.

Tauranga answered first in the third thanks to a goal from Malia Josephson, however wasn't enough to shift the momentum and take the crown.

Josephson says in their first match against Waitakere in the semifinals the team came together and gelled really well.

Malia Josephson in action. Photo / File
Malia Josephson in action. Photo / File

"Obviously the second team [North Harbour] was much stronger, they had a strong bench as well which made them beat us," Josephson said.

Randall was proud of the women's team, which he is convinced will be a "powerful force" within the next couple of years.

"Our women were exceptional, you know we just lacked probably a little finals experience but I believe this is the ladies team," Randall says.

In the men's championship, the favourites Marist Magic Men took the 2019 Honda National League Men's championship trophy after a nail biting 11-10 win over Hutt Heat.

In the battle for bronze, North Harbour Cootes Construction defeated Tauranga Body In Motion men's team with a 13-9 victory. Tauranga won the exclusion count (11-8) but couldn't convert enough to stay in the game.

Coach Randall says although the Tauranga teams missed out a top finish this year, having that finals experience will make the teams stronger for next season.

There is no doubt the Tauranga athletes made their mark in the competition though, with the Tauranga women's captain Kate Enoka being named the MPV of the whole women's league.

"Kate Enoka was named as the MPV of the whole league, she was regarded as the best player of the whole women's league, which is really awesome," Randall says.

In the men's division, two Tauranga players were also highlighted for their efforts.

"Cameron Hayes was named in the tournament team and then Bay Fountain was chosen as the best men's goalkeeper of the entire league."

He said having the talents of the local talented pointed out was a positive for the club.

"It was really special because obviously the teams doing well is one thing, you know that shows that we can get people working together towards a common goal but also to have individual players chosen is excellent. I'm quite proud of them because it shows that we can bring the best out of our players."

2019 Honda National League results:
Women's Gold medal final: North Harbour Carlton Party Hire defeated Tauranga Body In Motion 13-6.
Women's Bronze Medal final: Waitakere beat Atlantis City Kap7 Tridents 10-6.
Men's Gold Medal final: Marist Magic defeated Hutt Heat 11-10.
Bronze Medal final: North Harbour Cootes Construction beat Tauranga Body In Motion 13-9.

2019 Men's Honda National League Water Polo Team:
Bae Fountain, Tauranga body In Motion (Goalkeeper).
Jerome McGuinness, Hutt Heat.
Sean Bryant, Hutt Heat.
Fabian Wanrooij, Marist Magic.
Ricky Thomson, North Harbour Cootes Construction.
Cameron Hayes, Tauranga Body In Motion.
Most Valuable Player: Matt Small, Marist Magic.

2019 Women's Honda National League Water Polo Team:
Chantelle Conroy, Waitakere Blue Diamonds (Goalkeeper).
Emmerson Houghton, Waitakere Blue Diamonds.
Evie Mills, Hutt Heat.
Libby Alsemgeest, Atlantis City Kap7 Tridents.
Gabby Milicich, Marist Magic.
Kirsten Hudson, Atlantis City Kap7 Tridents.
Most Valuable Player: Kate Enoka, Tauranga Body In Motion.