Prior to moving to London to study physiotherapy in 1994, my sporting focus had always been basketball and a bit of swimming to mix things up. Well, except for summer holidays when I was lucky enough to find a holiday resort with ‘water polo’ or ‘water basketball’ on offer – I felt like I was in my element.
The University of London Union was where I tried water polo proper for the first time. I remember it well, especially the horrified facial expression of coach Jerome Read when, having no idea of the rules, I grabbed the ball with two hands and curled myself around it. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I had the knack of eggbeater leg kick, a better understanding of the rules, and I was invited to join the Penguin Club.
I played with Penguin for just over ten years. It was a time that helped me grow as a person, learn life skills (and lessons), and make some incredible friendships with people from all over the world, many of whom I consider close friends even now, 16 years later. Most importantly I learnt my capacity (or lack of) to consume alcoholic beverages.
I was baffled when I was elected to be captain of the Penguin women’s water polo team in 1998 but figured if someone else thought I could do it, then I would give it a go. For four years I rallied the troops for games, led discussions on who was to be the next coach, delegated a lot, and introduced George I – the inflatable penguin and women’s team mascot. I was proud to be part of a team of strong women who were committed to not only having fun whilst keeping fit, but also to becoming integral to running the Club, particularly with the likes of Helen Nicholson, Manda Hackett, Sally Woolhouse-Read and Charlie Parkinson.
From 2001 I joined the Great Britain Water Polo Squad. The extra water polo commitments, Penguins and my physio career juggle eventually became too much, and I was happy to hand over the captaincy to Fiona Greer, who has gone on to do so much more for the Club than just lead a team of women.
In late 2004 , after having had the opportunity to play at various European and World Championships, I decided I should probably try getting my life back and focusing on my physio career.
In January 2005 I played my last game for Penguin and enjoyed a legendary send off party (did I ever say thank you for that Charlie and team?) and set off to make the most of sleeping on ex-Penguin players’ couches in New Zealand and Australia, before settling in Brisbane to do some post-grad study in sports physio.
My contact with water polo became less, but there was always a Penguin linked to it, and being physio for the British team at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, with Jerome Read as part of the coaching team once again, felt like an appropriate ending to my career in water polo.
16 years on and living in South Australia, I still have close friends some of whom live just down the road, who are ex-Penguins, or know someone who was a Penguin. Lets face it, Penguins are awesome, and awesome people know awesome people…
This article is part of our Penguin 100 Stories, a series from Penguins past and present, recording what being a member of our Club means to them as we celebrate the Club’s centenary.