Cronulla Sharks Water Polo Club Celebrate 60 Amazing Years!

Published Thu 27 Jun 2024

As Cronulla Water Polo Club marks its 60th anniversary, we reflect on a journey rich with community spirit, sporting achievements, and a legacy that spans generations. From its humble beginnings in 1963 to its status as one of Australia's most successful water polo clubs, Cronulla's story is one of passion, perseverance, and pride.

A Vision Born by the Ocean

"The seed for what has become one of Australia's most successful water polo clubs was sown by the merging of teams from Gymea Bay and Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club," shares Luke Brbot, a proud member of the Cronulla Water Polo family. The club's foundation was laid by Frank Jordan, a 1956 Helsinki Olympian, who, along with some mates from the eastern suburbs, started the St. George and Sutherland Shire Water Polo Club in 1963.

This vision quickly took root, with the club entering its first team in the Third Division of the Sydney Metropolitan Competition. The goal was clear: to enable local players to become eligible for selection in New South Wales and to represent Australia on the international stage, and the pinnacle of sporting excellent, the Olympics.

Embracing Diversity and Growth

Cronulla's commitment to inclusivity was evident from the early years. In 1968, the club introduced its first women's team, coached by Peter Kerr. This team not only broke new ground but also secured the club's first premiership that very year, setting the stage for a strong women's program that continues to thrive today.

The club's growth was further accelerated in 1971 with the establishment of the Sutherland Shire Junior Water Polo Association (SSJWPA), which became a vital nursery for developing young talent. "We've always been very proud of our local community involvement," Luke emphasises. "We pride ourselves on having boys and girls from the local area, and as a result, our membership has always been strong."

Cronulla Sharks boys team

A Legacy of Olympic Excellence

Cronulla's impact on the international stage is undeniable. The club has consistently produced Olympians, with its first representatives, Andrew Kerr and Randall Goff, competing in the 1976 Montreal Olympics and Andrew going on to compete in a remarkable 4 Olympic games as Luke explains “It’s an extraordinary achievement in world sport, it transcends water polo and transcends Australian sport as a whole and is truly work class. This tradition of Olympic excellence has continued through the decades, with Cronulla players representing Australia in multiple Games.

One of the club's proudest moments came in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when Simone Fountain (nee Hankin) became Cronulla's first Olympic Gold Medallist. "That's probably in the top three sporting moments in this country, certainly in this century," Luke reflects with pride.

The Olympic legacy continues for Cronulla at the 2024 Olympics with Markus Berehulak and Milas Maksimovic representing the Aussie Sharks in the pool in Paris, alongside Bec Rippon as the Head Coach and Dani Jackovich in the pool for the Aussie Stingers.

Sustained Success and Community Spirit

Cronulla's success extends far beyond individual achievements. The club experienced a golden era from 1980 to 1999, claiming an impressive 10 out of 19 Australian Water Polo League championships. A particularly memorable milestone was reached in the club's 25th year when Cronulla won every grade - a testament to the depth and quality of its program across all levels.

But for Cronulla, success isn't just measured in titles and medals. "We're a community club," Luke emphasises. The club's strong ties to local sponsors, particularly Cronulla RSL, and its commitment to developing not just players but also coaches and officials, have been crucial to its enduring success.

Adapting to Modern Challenges

As the sporting landscape evolves, Cronulla Water Polo Club continues to adapt and innovate. The club has invested in cutting-edge technology at Sutherland Pool, including new goals, lane ropes, and a state-of-the-art scoreboard. These upgrades not only enhance the playing experience but also open up new opportunities for sponsorship and engagement.

Moreover, Cronulla is addressing the changing culture of sport by setting realistic expectations for young players and providing holistic support. "We educate our kids outside the water," Luke explains, highlighting the club's initiatives in social media training, anti-bullying courses, and mental health support.

Cronulla Sharks Team shot

Volunteers and Community at the Heart of Cronulla

At the core of Cronulla's success is its dedicated army of volunteers. From coaches to managers, these individuals give their time and expertise to nurture the next generation of water polo talent. The club goes to great lengths to support and recognise these unsung heroes, providing them with uniforms, covering pool entry costs, and assisting with travel to championships.

"Water Polo and the Cronulla Water Polo Club gave me my best mates and probably one of the best experiences of my life," Luke shares, explaining his motivation for volunteering. This sentiment echoes throughout the club, where many volunteers are driven by a desire to give back and provide opportunities for the next generation.

Looking to the Future

As Cronulla Water Polo Club celebrates its 60th anniversary, there's a palpable sense of excitement about the future. The club continues to honour its rich history while embracing new challenges and opportunities. From its innovative 60th anniversary merchandise to its commitment to upgrading facilities, Cronulla is poised for another six decades of excellence.

The journey of Cronulla Water Polo Club is more than just a sporting success story; it's a testament to the power of community, dedication, and a shared passion for the sport. As they move towards their centenary, Cronulla remains a shining example of how a local club can make a global impact while staying true to its roots.

Everyone at WPNSW congratulates Cronulla Water Polo Club on their 60 years of excellence. Here's to many more years of success, both in and out of the pool!