As the son of two champion athletes Joel Smith had a big choice to make when he chose his own sport. But it was his feet which made the decision for him.
As the son of two champion athletes Joel Smith had a big choice to make when he chose his own sport. But it was his feet which made the decision for him.

Teen son of water poloi and rugby gun making a splash

Joel Smith grew up on his mother and father's stories about playing for their country in elite sport.

His mother Bronwyn Maher was a member of the famous Sydney Olympic water polo team which won gold 21 years ago and a player who fought valiantly for the women's game to be recognised at the highest level.

His father Damian was a rugby star, a former Queensland winger who made 21 appearances for the Wallabies between 1993 and 1998.

 

Bronwyn Mayer competing in Australia’s match against Kazakhstan at the Sydney Olympics.
Bronwyn Mayer competing in Australia’s match against Kazakhstan at the Sydney Olympics.

But instead of being torn between these two sports, Smith said pursuing water polo was an easy decision for him.

"I have flat feet and I can't run,'' said the 18-year-old former Riverview student preparing for the Australian Water Polo League championships in Brisbane from next week.

"I put them in a footy boot and they roll up. I couldn't walk for 20 minutes after I took my shoes off.

"Dad didn't want me to get injured for water polo either so I hung up the cleats.

"I wasn't that good. I'm six foot and skinny as.''

 

Joel Smith, front row far right, was captain of the U18 Balmain team which won the 2020 Australian Youth Water Polo championships.
Joel Smith, front row far right, was captain of the U18 Balmain team which won the 2020 Australian Youth Water Polo championships.

But from the start Smith showed aptitude in the water and his feet became an asset.

"They are like big flippers,'' he said.

"I had a real affinity with it from when I started. I had my seven best mates with me and we all learnt to play together. It was great fun."

Smith, studying business at UTS, is now a member of the well-known UTS Balmain team competing at the nationals in Brisbane.

"I've been with them I was 11, my mum, cousins and uncles all played there as well,'' he said.

"Having mum and dad play sport; like they did helps me as a player.

They can guide me well.''

 

Members of the Sydney 2000 Olympics women's water polo team 20 years on from their famous victory. L-R Taryn Woods, Yvette Higgins, Bronwyn Smith (nee Mayer) and Debbie Watson. Pic: Toby Zerna
Members of the Sydney 2000 Olympics women's water polo team 20 years on from their famous victory. L-R Taryn Woods, Yvette Higgins, Bronwyn Smith (nee Mayer) and Debbie Watson. Pic: Toby Zerna

 

Rugby union player Damian Smith back in 2000.
Rugby union player Damian Smith back in 2000.

 

"It was pretty cool with the 20th anniversary of mum's Olympic win last year hearing her do interviews and listening to the stories.

"I thought it was awesome. It's pretty inspirational for me and my sisters (Layla, 15, Indie, 13). We try to be like her and how she played.''

Smith plays a number of positions with his club but refers right hand driver, the same position his mother player.

"She taught me how it was done.''

 

The gold medal winning women got their own stamp after the sensational victory in 2000.
The gold medal winning women got their own stamp after the sensational victory in 2000.

 

HOW DOES THE AUSTRALIAN WATER POLO LEAGUE WORK

 

The AWL will run from March 31 to April 7 and replaces an extended event which has been played in the past across multiple states.

 

HOW TO LIVESTREAM AND FOLLOW THE WATER POLO NATIONALS

 

News Corp and Water Polo Australia have teamed up for an unprecedented livestream event that will feature more than 140 matches across two weeks of national and Olympic trial action in Brisbane starting late this month.

Australian Water Polo League senior action, the Australian Youth Water Polo Championships and Olympic team selection matches will stream across Australia through The Courier-Mail, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and Adelaide's The Advertiser, plus many of the company regional websites.

 

NSW TEAMS IN THE AUSTRALIAN WATER POLO LEAGUE

 

The AWL features teams from Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

NSW teams are the UTS Balmain Tigers, Sydney Uni Lions, UNSW West Magpies, Drummoyne Devils and Cronulla sharks and Hunter Hurricanes.

 

MORE SPORT

Daughter of rugby gun on Olympic water polo mission

Rising city and country stars of NSW Netball

Incredible: From near death to Olympic dreaming

 

MORE RUGBY LEAGUE AND LOCAL SPORT HERE

Originally published as Teen son of water polo, rugby gun making a splash



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