Swim England Talent Centre athletes compete in ESSA’s Duke of Cambridge Cup

The English School Swimming Association’s Duke of Cambridge Cup has been hailed as a ‘real triumph’ after Swim England’s Talent Centre athletes were invited to join the competition for 2024.

The event – which took place at the Alan Higgs Centre in Coventry – welcomed 60 athletes from the Swim England Talent Centre programme alongside another 60 which were nominated from schools across the country.

The one-day tournament was held on Saturday 27 January was it’s first iteration at U14 level which allows for the ESSA to work with younger players to engage with them at an earlier stage in their water polo journey.

Teams were mixed of players from each of the five talent centres and those chosen by schools with four boys and four girls squads selected for the day in the Midlands.

Players were allocated to either the Vulcan’s, Typhoon’s, Spitfires or Hurricanes which were named after planes from the Second World War in honour of the Duke of Cambridge – HRH The Prince of Wales – who served in the RAF.

Following an opening ceremony the teams each faced off against once across the day in matches of four periods of five minutes.

The games were all close and competitive throughout which gave the players the perfect opportunity to earn more high level match experience and prepare them for a future within the sport.

Each player received a medal for their efforts but it was the Typhoon’s who came out on top across the afternoon.

‘A great experience for the athletes’

The competition in Coventry made for the first of three end of term events for the U14 athletes on the Talent Centre programme with the U16 athletes taking part in the Talent Centre Festival last month.

And for Neil Green, English Schools Honorary Water Polo Secretary and President 2024, the event was a real triumph for the new era of the competition.

“The Duke of Cambridge Cup was a superb event,” he said. “To have the best 120 players (born in 2010) competing at one tournament having been identified by the Swim England Talent Centres and individual Schools across the country was a real triumph of the partnership and vision of the event.

“Countless volunteers across the whole water polo community helped to make the event happen but it would be remiss of me not to publicly thank Colin Walsh as the event organiser, Damien Taylor for coordinating the referees and Mike Hesketh for putting together a brilliant table officials team.

“The Alan Higgs Centre, Coventry was an outstanding venue to hold this event and one that we look forward to using again in the future.

“The English Schools Swimming Association continues to provide significant opportunities across the aquatic disciplines and this event was a real highlight for pupils of school age who are passionate about their water polo.”

Andy McGinty, Swim England Water Polo Talent and Inclusion Officer added: “The Duke of Cambridge Cup provided a great experience for our talent centre athletes.

“Allowing our U14 players to compete alongside the best from schools across the country made for a real high standard of play across the day, which is something we’re looking forward to continuing in the future.

“Having this event as part of the Talent Centre programme is another step towards out continued efforts to improve the standard of water polo across the nation.”

“Thank you to everyone at the ESSA and all the volunteers and officials who helped support the event.”

Swim England’s Talent Centre athletes will soon be back for the next of their end of term events in the spring with the first of two Swim England Water Polo Talent Games events. The second Talent Games event of the year will then take place in the summer where we’ll crown this year’s Talent Centre Champions.

You can find all the images from the Duke of Cambridge Cup courtesy of Mickaël Malaper here.