Celebrating 140 Years with Balmain Water Polo Club

Published Thu 09 May 2024

Balmain Water Polo Club, with its deep roots stretching back to the 1800s as the Balmain Swimming Club, is marking its 140th anniversary this year. This significant milestone isn't just about celebrating longevity; it's about reflecting on a journey rich with community spirit, sporting achievements, and a legacy that spans generations.

A Club Woven with Family Threads

"At the heart of Balmain Water Polo Club is family," shares Cooper Silk, the coach of the 14A girls' team and a third-generation Balmain polo player. "My mother and aunt were pioneers in New South Wales women's water polo. My mum’s four brothers also played for Balmain and our family's story is intertwined with the club’s, they even lived upstairs at Elkington Park because my grandfather was the caretaker of the pool for many years!"

This sentiment echoes throughout Balmain, where names like Miranda, Woods, and Mayer crop up across generations. It's a club where past Australian water polo greats, including Olympians Taryn Woods, Gavin Woods and Bronwyn Mayer, have returned to nurture the next wave of talent.

A Proud Legacy of Success and Olympic Glory

Historically, Balmain has been a force to reckon with. From the men's commanding presence in the 1990s to the recent dominance of the women's teams, success is woven into the club's fabric. Particularly notable are the Olympic contributions, with Balmain having representation in every Australian Olympic water polo team since 1948, when Eric Johnston represented Australia in London.

These contributions famously included the remarkable gold medal wins by club legends at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. "Celebrating Taryn Woods, Yvette Higgins and Bronwyn Mayer's gold medal win is among our proudest moments," reflects Cooper.

Adapting to Change While Honouring Tradition

The club has evolved significantly over the decades. What started with men's competitions has grown to include a flourishing women's program, highlighted by recent grand final victories and strong performances in the summer Metro season. Cooper credits this expansion to the club's adaptability and willingness to welcome more women into the sport. "Our culture has shifted over time. Today, we support a thriving women's program that starts from Under 12s," he says. This inclusiveness is a testament to Balmain's commitment to evolving while maintaining its core values.

Deeply Rooted in the Community

Balmain's influence extends far beyond the pool. The club is a vital part of the local community, supporting numerous initiatives, school programs, and even local pubs. "Our connection with the community is strong. We're more than just a sports club; we're part of the fabric of Balmain," Cooper notes, highlighting the club’s efforts in fundraising and community engagement.

Looking Ahead with Optimism

As Balmain Water Polo Club celebrates this landmark anniversary, there's a sense of excitement about the future. Plans are underway for a gala event to commemorate the 140 years, alongside a special celebration for the upcoming Paris Olympics. Cooper emphasises the importance of continuous improvement, from coaching and team performance to enhancing the club's technology and marketing efforts. "Our aim is always to be better, to welcome more into our fold, and to keep building on our incredible legacy," he says.

You can watch the full interview with Cooper here:

A Vital Part of the Community

What sets Balmain Water Polo Club apart isn't just its rich history of success or its Olympic lineage; it's the community and family ethos that permeates every aspect of the club. From fostering young talents and celebrating international glories to supporting local causes and hosting barbecues by the pool, Balmain is more than a club—it's a home.

As they move towards 150 years, Balmain Water Polo Club remains a shining light of sporting excellence, community involvement, and family tradition, ready to inspire and embrace future generations and help young athletes participate in our fantastic sport.

Everyone at WPNSW would like to congratulate BWPC on their 140 year celebrations as we reflect on how the club has become an institution not just in water polo but in the heart of its community. The journey ahead is bright, steeped in the values that have carried the club through its illustrious past. 

With a family as large and passionate as Balmain's, the legacy is sure to grow, evolve, and flourish for many more years to come and we look forward to being part of the journey.

There will, of course be festivities to celebrate this amazing milestone, Balmain WPC are planning a gala later this year and we'll bring you the detials as soon as they are released!