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Meet the challengers for the 2024 U17 open national age group title

The GoCardless Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships 2024 (U17/U19) take place at the GL1 Leisure Centre in Gloucester this weekend.

In the build up to the competition, we’re taking a closer look at each of the sides that are looking to become national champions in the South West on Sunday.

Here, in the first of our four previews we take a look at the U17 open teams that have qualified for finals weekend.

West London Penguin

Defending champions West London Penguin will look to repeat their success with a side that is made up of a number of players that claimed the U15 crown two years ago.

The team prepared for their National Age Group Championships campaign in Malta where they achieved a fantastic fifth place at their first international tournament. They took on teams from Germany, Hungary, Italy and the Maltese national side in an event where the group won their first international match against a strong Hungarian team in Vasas.

Their semi-final in Gloucester will be a rematch of that U15 final in 2022 where they take on the City of Manchester.

Head coach Claudio Palumbo said: “It is always hard to repeat success, especially with the junior squads where many elements can change on the outcome of the results. After 18 months we will find a very different opponent and Manchester is always a strong side to come up against.

“Anyway it is very important for the club to achieve the top 4 national tournament also for this year. This result, including to have at this finals the u17 girls team, confirms the good work that the management group of the club planned from the end of covid19 until now.”

Squad: Adriano Porsia, Shai Saltman, Daniel D’souza, Matthew O’Neill, Ron Feder, Matteo Antonelli, Victor Laslop, Max Karagiannis, Michelangelo Antonelli, Rafael Karagiannis, Konstantinos Patras, Ektor Karagiannis, Dominic O’Neill.

Cheltenham

Cheltenham are the only club to come into the competition with a team in the finals of each event where they will be looking to add to the success of their U17 girls in 2023.

This group came out on top in Group C on goal difference over an impressive Worthing side to reach the finals.

They drew 5-5 with the Sussex based outfit with convincing 12-3 and 8-4 wins over City of Sheffield and City of Coventry respectively firing them to the top of the table.

The club will no doubt be buoyed by the strength they have across the age groups and their head coach John Spicer – who’s been coaching at the club for more than 40 years – is looking forward to finals weekend.

He said: “It is always great to see our next generation of players coming through, I coached almost all of the current first team players and coaches, when they were young players, and this team will be the senior players of the future.

“There’s never any easy games when you get to a finals but we are excited about playing in-front of a home crowd.”

Cheltenham will take on Caledonia in their semi-final match-up on Saturday.

Squad: Kristijan Drobnjak, Will Bamborough, Alfie Clarke, Harvey Mitchell, Hugo Rodriguez, Charlie White, Ryan Renders, Caleb Green, Dylan Lane, Freddie Eatwell, Matt Penny, James Cooper

City of Manchester

City of Manchester are always a force to be reckoned with at the national age group championships and this year they bring three teams to finals weekend in Gloucester.

The clubs U17 open team topped Group B of the preliminary round with a 100% record and an impressive goal difference of 33 from three matches.

They defeated Croydon Amphibians (12-2), City of Birmingham (12-5) and Northampton (18-2) with some strong performances at both ends in Walsall to seal their spot in the finals once again.

After back-to-back silver medals for the club in this event, this time round head coach Dan Paddon is hopeful that his team can go all the way in Gloucester.

He said: “After a successful preliminary round the team returned with an even bigger hunger to push on.

“Training has been excellent as the players have all had healthy competition for places as well as knowing that we meet the current champions (Penguin) in the semi-final.

“We have had a very intense last few weeks preparing for these finals. Lots of extra sessions and friendly matches have helped us prepare and organise for what we know will be a tough weekend.

“I have full confidence in the team and know they will give it everything to bring home the gold.”

Caledonia

2024 marks a first for Caledonia with the Scottish side reaching the finals in both the open U17 and U19 age groups for the first time.

It marks a great achievement for the club who reached the U17 finals after a trio of impressive victories over Exeter, Sedgefield and Beckenham.

They ended up qualifying as runners-up in Group A behind defending champions West London Penguin at Grantham’s Meres Leisure Centre last month.

They were unbeaten in the group with draws against both Watford and Penguin seeing them demonstrate that Scottish fighting spirit to seal their spot in Gloucester this weekend.

Ahead of their trip south, Head Coach Fraser MacNair commented “I am incredibly proud of the team for joining the U19s and reaching the U17 finals for the first time.

“We knew how tough the qualification group was going to be, but the players really rose to the challenge and produced some of the best water polo I’ve seen them play. We can’t wait to be part of the finals weekend now!

“We would also like to thank Kirkcaldy Ford Centre for their continued support of the team this year, making their participation in this year’s tournament possible.”

Squad: Struan Bailey, Raphael Schiff-Abels, Ismael Weiser, Jason Dickson, Daniel Fielding, Fraser Vandermeulen, Blair Wilson, Brady Shaw, Nathanael Schiff-Abels, Chris Copley, John Oscar Walker, Joe Mathieson, Alasdair Grant

A live scoreboard for the competition this weekend will be available here and you can keep up with all the action through Swim England’s social media channels. You’ll be able to find all the reports from the event on the Swim England website within the Water Polo hub.

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