‘I’ve seen worse injuries in training’: UWE men’s water polo team talk exclusively about the violence at Varsity

The president says water polo is simply a very physical game

It was revealed last week that there had been a violent incident at the men’s Water Polo Varsity match. A UWE player was accused of attacking the Bristol captain, and the police were called.

The Tab spoke to the UWE Men’s Water Polo team’s former president, Nick Bonthuys, about what happened and about Varsity in general:

“Speaking on behalf of the boys I feel it is a shame how out-of-hand things got in the aftermath of the varsity match on Wednesday”.

‘Frustrations in the pool have a history of turning violent’

“Water polo is a very physical game and frustrations in the pool have a history of turning violent (watch any youtube compilation or just any match really) which is why water polo is labelled as not for the faint hearted.

“Most disputes amount to nothing more than a few bumps and bruises and go no further than the ref’s whistle. British water polo has a strong tradition of drinking a pint in the home team’s local and putting all incidents in the past, which should have been the case regarding Wednesday’s incident.”

The offending injury

He added that UWE no.3 “overreacted to being struck in the eye”. He says: “his actions were his own and unacceptable and in no way should reflect or bring to question the sportsmanship of the rest of the UWE team, their club or the University”.

According to Nick, no.3 has agreed with this and – on his own – reached out and apologised directly to Tristan. “This is where it all should have ended.”

‘I’ve seen worse injuries in training’

About the injuries he says: “I think it was wise that Tristan sought medical attention and went to A&E, one cannot be too cautious. However the injuries sustained did not look particularly severe. As Bristol University enjoy reminding us we are (luckily) a university that produce paramedics and nurses – therefore on poolside we had several of these in attendance who are currently on placement and see these sorts of things and a daily basis.

“Whilst not qualified yet, they are all individuals who will not stand by and watch when someone urgently requires medical attention. I have personally seen worse injuries in training. One of our best players has been out since September after dislocating his shoulder in one such incident. The worst injuries are not malicious – Bristol should know this after super 8s.”

Team dedication

‘Instead of letting the scoreboard do the talking they opted to waste police time’

“Bristol had the opportunity to take the high road and show how a red-brick university with a longstanding sporting tradition handle an isolated and ugly incident.

“It seems instead of letting the scoreboard do the talking they opted to waste police time and to mount a social media attack aimed at our entire team. To say that inter-club relations are so bad the police are required goes much further against the spirit of varsity than any on-pitch scuffle. Police time was wasted, no arrest was made and the bad-blood rather than dissipating in the pub afterwards still lingers.”

‘A totally unnecessary attack on Robert… the players lined up to shake hands, as tradition’

“Our final quarter goal keeper, Robert Smith, considers Tristan an acquaintance and thought it proper and decent to check on him, as was mentioned in Bristol’s article but it goes on to say he walked away without shaking hands which is a totally unnecessary attack on Robert. Tristan’s right hand was holding an icepack to his head.

“As for the rest of the players, they lined up as is tradition and shook the opposition’s hands and then carried on with putting equipment away and clearing up. Tristan was the other side of the pool and fully capable of joining his team to line up and shake hands.

‘We have always been seen as somewhat of a joke in water polo’

“We can only assume that this overreaction to an isolated incident is fuelled by fear over UWE’s rapid rise in recent years. We are the only ex-poly in the BUCS southern premiership and defied all expectations in staying up, admittedly we believe our finish is actually quite disappointing and feel we can do better in the years to come.

“As an ex-poly with little sporting tradition (especially in aquatics) we have always been seen as somewhat of a joke in water polo. Varsity has never been very enjoyable because for the longest time we have been in a low division and Bristol have been at the top (of the top). Things were so bad that a handicap would have been appropriate.

‘We don’t only party harder anymore, we play and train harder’

“However the times are changing and we don’t only party harder anymore, we play and train harder. Last year we beat Southampton and Exeter and Bath, all universities with pools who have been at the top division 1A for a long time. Thus earning promotion into the Premiership.

“Suddenly little old UWE are not such a joke, we proved this further in our first ever league clash with Bristol, we won. The second meeting they won by one goal after a four goal swing in the final quarter saw us lose the lead. Varsity was the decider. We have not won a varsity match for a very long time. Losing Varsity would be the worst thing that can happen to Bristol University water polo, to us it is just another year.

“Our exit from qualifying to the Super 8s saw the end of our training regime four weeks before Varsity and the score reflected that. However the game was contested and tough for all involved.”

‘Drinking is the source of UWE men’s polo’s power, not fitness as is visible’

“The contemporary UWE men’s team see themselves as a family, a change that is well documented in social media as being linked to the rise in our predilection of drinking together. A habit that has often ignored the coaches drinking bans but one that holds us all accountable for our personal performance and attendance to training as it affects the team and by extension our close friends.

“Drinking is the source of UWE men’s polo’s power, not fitness as is visible. And in this endeavour we extend an olive branch to safely escort and show Bristol water polo the ropes at Motion, Lakota and the various other venues and pursuits that UWE do in fact have a long standing tradition of.

‘We have no pool’

“We have a fraction of the training time our opposition have and therefore have sought to make strong links with local clubs ‘City of Bristol’ and ‘Bristol Harlequins’, aiding them in their leagues and in their training.

“We have no pool, unlike all those we play against. In fact we hire Bristol’s pool as our home venue.

“We don’t have the scholarship funds that the ex-polys in the northern premiership have and struggle to recruit in the same way as our red-brick rivals do but we do have close-knit sense of family and retain strong alumni participation and guidance.

“We are the underdogs and are happy to remain so, our grit and determination to keep fighting (in the figurative sense) has seen us develop amongst ourselves a long standing unofficial team name, the UWE ‘honey badgers’, however after Wednesday’s varsity we feel an official rebranding is due.”

‘The limited violence we’ve had has been entirely in the pool during the match’

To sum up, Nick says: “The UWE men’s water polo team agree with what the UWE rugby team said: ‘we do not want varsity to be tarnished with a bad reputation of fighting and aggression’.

“Luckily as far as water polo varsity is concerned we have experienced no sexism and the limited violence we’ve had has been entirely in the pool during the match. As a club, UWE Swimming and Water polo whole-heartedly embrace the spirit of competition AND fellowship that Varsity is all about.”

He added: “As a club this our final response to the trivial events of Wednesday, we will be moving on and looking to the future.

“We can assure all of our opposition teams that it is unlikely we will be carrying on this trend of having police present for disputes in the water, and all are welcome to join us for a drink or twelve.”