Yarrawonga’s Ben Douglass will head to Thailand in November to represent Australian Country Water Polo in their attempt to retain the Princess Chulaborn Cup.
Douglass, who isn’t particularly comfortable in the spotlight, played an integral role in the NSW Country Blues team win at the 2017 Australian Country Championships in Hobart in May.
The team went through the tournament undefeated, toppling five other teams from across the country before meeting Tasmania in the grand final and taking the title 11 to 9.
Douglass has water polo in his blood, both his parents played and his two sisters represented Australia in the sport.
He played as a youngster in Bowral and at age 18 was chosen to represent NSW in the Australian Country Championships.
Douglass took a lengthy hiatus from the sport, focussing on career and family, before reigniting his interest in water polo four years ago.
Now, between work with Belmores in Yarrawonga, family life with wife Hannah and sons Harry, 3 and Angus 1, and football with the Rennie Hoppers, he travels to play for the Albury Sharks.
In a full circle water polo journey, he was chosen to represent NSW for the second time at the Australian Country Championships this year – now at age 33.
“It was great to be chosen for the NSW team and the tournament in Hobart was a lot of fun,” Douglass said.
“It’s country water polo so while it is pretty serious when you’re in the pool, afterwards there is a real social aspect to it which I enjoy.”
Teams from NSW won both the men’s and the women’s titles in Hobart and from his performance at that tournament Douglass was selected to represent Australia on the Thailand campaign.
“The Australian teams won the cup in both the men’s and women’s in Thailand last year so there’s a lot to live up to,” he said.
“Our domestic water polo season finishes in March so I had been keeping up my training for the Hobart championships and now I’ll keep training through to November.
“Unfortunately for me that means travelling to either Wangaratta, Barooga or Shepparton to train in a heated pool because I can’t swim here. That can make it a bit tough at times.
“Water polo isn’t a sport that a lot of people know much about. You have to be fit and be prepared for the physicality of it. It’s basically a matter of what you can get away with under the water and it can be pretty rough at times.”
Competition for the Princess Chulaborn Cup will see Australia come up against teams from countries including Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Sri Lanka and Taiwan over the course of a hectic four-day tournament.
With the likelihood of three matches each day, then finals, Douglass said it was unlikely his young family would make the international trip.
“My family gives me great support and watch me play whenever they can, but Thailand is a big trip and there won’t be much time for anything but water polo over the few days I’m there,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
In the meantime, Douglass will keep pulling the boots on for the Rennie reserves each weekend while keeping up his training program in the water.
He also hopes, whatever happens at the international tournament, to keep his photograph out of the newspaper to avoid any further fines from the football club.