Summer season takes off
After the Winter League which came to an end last month, the main waterpolo competitions for 2012 are due to start today at the National Pool with the first preliminary round matches in which eight teams will be engaged.
The competition will be tailored on last season’s format, with the preliminary round followed by inter-group matches to determine the final placings in divisions one and two which will comprise five and four teams respectively.
Phase Two, consisting of two and three rounds respectively for the first and second divisions, will follow after the teams in both divisions are allotted bonus points.
Play-offs come next, this time with the top-placed team in the first division playing the winner of a best-out-of-three tie between the second and third teams in the standings.
Like last year, the final will be contested over a five-match series, while the fourth place will be decided in a match between the two bottom-placed teams.
The second division title will be determined in a three-match play-off between the first two-placed teams.
Waterpolo enthusiasts will be eager to follow the fortunes of their favourite teams while anticipating another series of matches which should set the pulses racing.
If last year’s nailbiting clashes, especially towards the end of the season, are anything to go by, then we should be in for another memorable campaign.
As has been the case in the last years, the main protagonists will be champions Neptunes and Sliema.
Both teams are replete with players of the top order, each able to turn matches on their head as a result of their virtuosity.
San Ġiljan will also stake a claim for a say in the honours as they possess a solid unit which should be strengthened after June 22 by powerhouse left-hander Matthew Zammit after the player will have served a LEN-imposed two-year suspension for doping.
Sirens and Exiles also entertain hopes of upsetting the applecart of their more-quoted opponents this summer.
Their squads are mainly made up of emerging youngsters, with a core of experienced players complementing them.
Barring any surprises, Marsascala, Otters, Ta’ Xbiex and Valletta are likely to contest the second division championship, with the southenders and the City team seemingly having the brightest aspirations of winning the title.
A levelling-up in the power base of the local game, especially at top level, is much needed and last season we saw a glimpse of this in some keenly-contested duels.
The inclusion in our teams of several quality players from such countries as Serbia, Hungary, Croatia and Italy should add to the attraction of a much-awaited season.
Referees, of course, play an important role as waterpolo also depends on innumerable decisions which can either be correct (which is the norm), controversial or outright erroneous.
Big decisions can have a lasting bearing on the result. However, all stakeholders should accept the verdict and refrain from any outbursts in the wake of what they deem to be wrong judgements.
Incidentally, some weeks ago the Neptunes president Matthew Bonello was handed a hefty eight-month aggregated suspension, a ban which was then reduced to five months upon appeal as the article on aggressive behaviour of the disciplinary code was changed.
There is no place in sport for untoward behaviour even if there may be mitigating circumstances such as wrong decisions or referees’ appointments which may not be deemed by some to be judicious enough.
Discipline and sportsmanship should prevail.
Group A: 4.15 pm Otters vs Ta’ Xbiex; 6.45 p.m. Sliema vs Exiles.
Group B: 5.30 p.m. Sirens vs Valletta; 8 p.m. Marsascala vs Neptunes.
Clubs’ foreigners and new signings
Neptunes – Tamas Molnar, Aleksandar Ciric, Clint Mercieca.
Sliema – Istvan Gergely, Salomon Ferenc, Miljan Popovic, James Falzon.
San Ġiljan – Nikola Sutic, Boris Letica, Bogdan Rath, Ryan Mock, Matthew Pisani, David Abela.
Sirens – Csaba Kiss, Arpad Babay, Claudio Spiteri DeBarro, Andrew Zarb Cousin.
Exiles – Marton Toth, Aljosa Kunac, Peter Borg, James Spiteri Staines.
Marsascala – Gabor Hegedus, Zolt Juhasz, Joseph Kayes, Keith Schembri, Brendan Muscat, Matthew Fenech, Liam Grixti.
Valletta – Robert Kovacs, David Zoltan, Michael Cordina, Ramon Calleja, Tony Galea, Sean Meli, Edward Arrigo, Tim Agius.
Ta’ Xbiex – Szabo Botond, Yuri Seles, Joseph Cremona, Otis Zammit, Charles Bugeja, Keith Galea, Andrea Galea, Anthony Bugeja.
Otters – Zoltan Radocz, Mate Balatoni, John Paris, Adrian Cachia, Kyle Debattista.