Former Lancaster and GB star Scott Carpenter is now a big name in Australia – as confirmed by his selection to play for an International All Stars team against the Australian national side at Bondi Beach, Sydney, on 4 January.
His teammates will include triple Hungarian Olympic gold medallists Tamas Kasas and Tomas Molnar, Maurizio Felugo and Deni Fiorentina from Italy’s World champions team and Tim Hutten, Olympic silver medallist with the US.
Scott (pictured here, third from right in the back row in an Australian League All Stars line-up) describes the occasion as “a bit of fun – an annual exhibition game introduced to market water polo to a broader Australian audience and give the sport some exposure.
“They do a great job here marketing to businesses and celebrities to reach a demographic that wouldn’t normally watch water polo. I’m not focusing on my teammates too much because I think we have an inferiority complex in Britain that we don’t belong in the same pool as these players.
“That’s why I’m treating it as a fun occasion. I think part of the pool might actually be a bit shallow. So I’ll have an advantage there after growing up with the Sedgefield club in England!”
Scott moved to Australia in 2009 after a stint in Spain and lives in Melbourne. He was leading goal-scorer for Richmond in the Victoria State League last season, receiving the competition’s Most Valuable Player accolade, and will shortly start a new Australian National League campaign with Victoria Tigers, last season’s runners-up.
He says: “Life in Australia is great. To be playing sport for a living in a country that loves sport so much is perfect and it’s nice to be looked after for playing water polo.
“The people here are amazing and they’ve been so welcoming. Even though I live in the centre of Melbourne, everyone’s always so relaxed and smiling. I’m really lucky to be in a great location with the beach, pool and city all on my doorstep. My apartment is also above the biggest shopping complex in the state with bars, a casino and cinema so I have to be careful how often I wander down there with my wallet.
“I’m currently waiting for confirmation that I can be sponsored for Permanent Residency by the Australian Olympic Commission, so fingers crossed that works out.
“On the water polo side, everything is there to help us play well. The standard of the National League and the Victoria Tigers training sessions is excellent. There’s a big emphasis on swimming and conditioning which suits me as I was brought up that way at Sedgefield and playing for Lancaster.
“Convenience is a big part of everything too. It doesn’t seem like a chore to go and meet for a coffee, go for a swim in an open-air 3000-seat stadium (Victoria Tigers home pool is the 2006 Commonwealth Pool), and then walk inside to a brand new gym at the Victorian Institute of Sport. It’s just a really pleasant environment to train in.
“I think being happy and mentally stimulated helps you get the best out of yourself and Melbourne is where I enjoy my water polo the most. While playing in Spain, I lived in a bit of a ghost town and spent 12 hours a day waiting for training. Even though the water polo was fantastic, it wasn’t the happiest situation, so the decision to come to Australia was easy.”
Scott enjoyed some great seasons with Lancaster, topping the men’s National League goal scoring list in three consecutive seasons and setting a record of 109 goals in 2007. The record had stood for 20 years and he ousted someone very close to home – his dad George, who totalled 105 for Durham.
Scott is disappointed – but not surprised – to hear about the loss of funding for GB men, especially as he was one of the first players involved in the pre-Olympics squad in 2006.
“As far we were concerned, London 2012 wasn’t ‘the start’ or a ‘building block’ towards Rio, it was the absolute end goal and the culmination of six years’ work. We always knew that a post-2012 ‘cliff’ awaited due to our GB junior teams being disbanded. The legacy plan simply didn’t exist.
“All the administrators ever worried about from 2009 to 2012 was having a men’s team appear at London 2012. Performance and personnel were virtually irrelevant, as long as they could tick the box.
“Why should administrators with no genuine interest in water polo worry about the ‘legacy’ or long-term state of the men’s game?”