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Rosie Morris looks back on the Commonwealth Champs

21 April 2014

On the eve of the final match of the FINA Women’s World League Preliminary rounds, British captain Rosie Morris talks about what it what like winning the 2014 Commonwealth Water Polo Championships with England.

After a difficult and devastating few weeks coming to terms with UK Sport’s decision to withdraw its funding for the women’s GBR water polo team, the Commonwealth Championships was an excellent opportunity for us to show what we are capable of and celebrate the great game.

Competing as England, we went in to the tournament fully focused on playing well, perfecting our tactics and aiming to win every game.

We soaked up the Commonwealth atmosphere at the opening ceremony and enjoyed watching the teams being presented to the crowd to the accompaniment of a traditional Scottish bagpiper.

First up, we played Wales. We used the game to work on our counter attack, something that Kostas has been doing a great deal of work on with us in training. Everyone got plenty of water-time in an emphatic 35-1 victory and it was great to see every outfield player on the score sheet, particularly Lauren Tasker and Honor Grimes on their senior team debuts.

Water Polo EnglandOur second match saw us face a strong South African team who were placed just one position behind us at the 2013 World Championships. We knew it could be a tough game, so it was important for us to have an organised and impenetrable defense throughout. It took three quarters of the match for the South Africans to score and we went on to win the game 9-3.

Day four was a rest day for us which included a heavy gym session, a long, hard sprint set in the pool and two video analysis sessions – I’m not sure our Greek coaches have the same interpretation of ‘rest day’ as us!

The following day saw us paired up against the host nation Scotland. In front of a noisy home crowd the match finished with a clear 24-2 win for us, although we were far from satisfied with our performance: too many mistakes, missed opportunities and errors on our counter attacks. However, this third win earned us a place in the final, so we were still on track to achieving our end goal of a gold medal.

Our last group game was against Canada who we knew we would be facing in the final. We played well but made a few crucial mistakes which, coupled with our poor man-up conversions, eventually cost us the game and we lost 8-9.

The disappointment we all felt at losing meant we spent time doing video analysis and player meetings to work out where we had made errors and what we needed to do to win the next - and most important - game of the tournament.

It was such a proud moment for me to be stood on the podium as captain with such a great team around me that I’ll treasure the memory forever.It was a great feeling to wake up on the final morning knowing that later on that day we had the possibility of winning a Commonwealth gold medal! We trained in the morning, working on last minute touch-ups to our defense and man-up tactics, and finished the session knowing we were ready for the final.

The atmosphere in the pool was incredible with many friends, family and fans raising the roof as the game began. We got off to a nervy start, but by the end of the second quarter we had snuck ahead by a few goals. The third quarter saw us extend our lead further, but then the nerves really took over and we allowed the Canadians to close the gap on our lead. However, we held on, and eventually went on to win the match 10-9 and claim the much-desired gold medals.

The celebrations after the final whistle were phenomenal from the pile on in the pool and hugging all my teammates, to singing along to our anthem during the medal presentation. It was such a proud moment for me to be stood on the podium as captain with such a great team around me that I’ll treasure the memory forever.

But now it is back to reality.

Despite Commonwealth gold medals for both our England men’s and women’s teams and bronze for the Scottish men, the funding situation means that the future of water polo in Great Britain is not looking good. Our women’s team had planned to centralise in Manchester again but for many of us, including our team staff, this is impossible without any funding, so the search for a job - and a life - away from water polo has begun.

I still live in the hope that UK Sport will change their attitude towards team sports and reinstate our funding to Rio 2016 and beyond, but unfortunately this is looking increasingly unlikely.

In the meantime we look forward to playing Spain on Tuesday in our final FINA World League Preliminary round match.

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