April 26, 2011
A small outback town in the desert 660 kilometres from the coast has managed to breed one of Australia’s most promising young water polo players.
Damian Williams, from the goldfields town of Leinster, dreams about winning an Olympic gold medal in the Australian team.
Damian moved to Perth in 2010 to board as a Year 7 student at Aquinas College in Manning, making him one of the school’s youngest boarders at the age of 12.
With his confident and outgoing nature, he adjusted well to being away from home and eagerly became involved in the school’s sporting program.
“I couldn’t run and had to choose something to do for a school sport,” Damian said.
“I have always loved swimming and cooling off in the local town pool in the desert, so thought I would give water polo a go.”
The 14-year-old’s unusually long limbs drew the attention of Aquinas’ water polo coach Tom Hoad, who represented Australia at eight Olympics and is a former coach of the Australian team.
“One day after a school training session Tom Hoad approached me and asked me if I’d like to try out as a goal keeper, because of my height and my long arm span,” Damian said.
Hoad introduced Damian to the Melville Water Polo Club, where he became goal keeper in the club’s 14 and under state A-grade team.
Playing for the Melville Sharks has allowed him to leave the boarding house several times a week for training and games, giving him an opportunity to break up the regular routine of a boarder.
Damian says the support of his Perth-based grandmother, and other players’ parents, has helped him get to and from the Bicton Pool and Challenge Stadium.
His family, especially mother Judy, regularly make the 660km trip to Perth to see the Leinster lad in action.
The highlight thus far in Damian’s sporting career came this year when the Melville Sharks won gold at the 14s and under State Championships in March.
The Sharks competed at the 14s and under Water Polo Nationals in Perth over Easter, where they kept most teams scoreless, until their defeat in the grand final against The Hunter Hurricanes from NSW.
While the loss at the Nationals was a big disappointment, Damian said he hoped to be part of a winning team when he played in the 16s next year.
“My dream is to go all the way,” he said.
“I want to be in a winning Nationals team, play for the Melville Mariners senior team, and then one day win gold for Australia.”
Photos: Therese Lafferty