Water Polo Australia to Undertake Independent High Performance Ecosystem Review and Develop 2025-32+ High Performance Strategy

Published Thu 11 Jul 2024

Water Polo Australia’s National Teams, the Ord Minnett Aussie Stingers (Women’s Team), Ord Minnett Aussie Sharks (Men’s Team) and National Age Group Squads (20&U Male and Female; 18&U Male and Female; 16&U Male and Female) have a proud record on the international stage. 

The Stingers won the first ever World Championships for Women held in in 1986 in Madrid, and won Gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where women’s water polo was introduced for the first time. The team has since won Bronze at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games. The Stingers are currently the 6th ranked water polo nation in the world. 

The Sharks are yet to secure an Olympic medal; however, they are frequently ranked inside the top 10 Water Polo nations in the world and are currently ranked 11th.

Taking a proactive view to achieving sustained success on the world stage in both the women’s and men’s programs, and with an awareness that the global and national Water Polo high performance landscape has changed significantly in recent years, Water Polo Australia (WPA) has initiated a comprehensive, independent and holistic review of its current high performance ecosystem (performance pathways, national, team programs, systems, structures, processes, daily performance environments and investment in high performance). 

Following the completion of the Review element of the project, key WPA high performance stakeholders will co-design the WPA 2025-2032+ High Performance Strategy, designed to guide both the implementation of WPA endorsed High Performance Ecosystem Review recommendations, and other key actions as we head towards the LA 2028 and Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games. McLaughlin Sports Consultancy has been engaged by WPA to drive the project with the support of a Project Reference Group (PRG) – refer below. The structure of the PRG includes key HP personnel from WPA, Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), National Team Players, National Team Head Coaches, State Association management, and the Australian Waterpolo League (AWL) / clubs.


Steering Group Membership

  1. Kay Copeland (WPA Director and HP Committee Chair)
  2. Tim Welsford (WPA CEO)
  3. Lorinda Rugless (WPA General Manager – High Performance)
  4. Ian Rutledge (AIS – Senior Performance Program Consultant)
  5. Rowie Webster (Stingers – London, Rio and Captain at Tokyo Olympics)
  6. Nathan Power (Ord Minnett Aussie Sharks Co-Captain)
  7. Rebecca Rippon (Ord Minnett Aussie Stingers Head Coach)
  8. Tim Hamill (Ord Minnett Aussie Sharks Head Coach)
  9. Ryan McDermott (Water Polo ACT CEO – State Association Rep)
  10. Rob Neesham (AWL/Club Rep)


Project Overview 


  • To clearly identify the purpose of the WPA HP ecosystem and its various elements. 
  • To identify the most appropriate HP framework model to ensure sustainable international success. 
  • To review the current structure, roles, responsibilities and operational effectiveness of all WPA HP network programs and competitions with the aim of identifying the framework and structure required to optimize HP outcomes across the national system. 
  • To examine WPA’s current investment in HP activities against desired outcomes. 
  • To allow WPA to utilize findings and recommendations from the Review, to develop an industry leading 2025-32+ HP Strategy that drives sustainable international success. 
  • To establish an appropriate implementation and monitoring framework that drives the industry leading delivery and on-going evaluation of all WPA high performance activities.


The scope of the Review will include (but may not be limited to) the following: 

  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of WPA’s governance and administrative structures and systems as they relate to HP activities, including the organisation’s strategic and high-performance planning, resource management, performance monitoring and reporting, and risk management.
  • Assess the current HP human resource structure, roles and responsibilities across the national HP system, with the aim of identifying what HP framework and human resource structure is required to optimize HP outcomes across the system, whilst fitting within WPA financial modelling.
  • Examine WPA’s and State Association’s current investment in high performance / performance pathways against desired outcomes.
  • Review the WPA National Competition Framework and its impact on HP outcomes.
  • Review WPA’s Athlete and Coach Development Pathway Frameworks.
  • Assess the ability of WPA’s HP system to proactively anticipate and respond to changes in the national and international high performance sporting landscape.
  • Assess the effectiveness of WPA’s overall strategy, structure, policies and processes that underpin its HP pathway framework and system 
  • Identify and address any other deficiencies, issues or opportunities relevant to ensuring that WPA Performance Pathways and HP systems can achieve their potential.
  • Use all findings from the Review and work with all key parties to co-design an industry leading 2025-2032+HP Strategy that drives sustainable international success of WPA national teams.


Who will the project engage with and how can you get involved?

Engagement with all key high-performance system stakeholder groups within the Australian high-performance Water Polo landscape, including board directors, coaches, players, referees, program/team leadership, employees, state associations, AWL clubs/teams, AIS, state institutes/academes of sport, is crucial for a project of this nature. WPA will offer  a range of opportunities for Water Polo community to have involvement in the project via e-surveys, interviews and focus groups, between July and October 2024, with the view to publicly release the WPA 2025-32+ High-Performance Strategy in early 2025. All engagement opportunities will be promoted through all relevant WPA communications channels, so please stay tuned and have your say.

If you would like to express your interest in contributing to this Review, please email McLaughlin Sports Consultancy Lead consultant – Mike McLaughlin (mike@mclaughlinsports.com.au), providing your name, a brief overview of your experience in High Performance Water Polo, and your phone number.