NSWIS Celebrates The Achievements Of Australian Women’s Coaches And Players

Be the first to hear from Bec Rippon & Lea Yanitsas on their nominations.

It has been a thrilling year for Australian Women’s Water polo. After a few turbulent years in the past, it seems that things are finally starting to head in the right direction. The Stingers team has came second in the FINA World League Final Series in Perth and finished with a bronze at the FINA World Championship in Korea.

As a result of such great achievements, the NSWIS Women’s Water Polo Program has been named as a finalist in the Sydney Olympic Park Authority Program of the Year category, while some of its coaches and players were also nominated as the very best among the NSWIS elite.

Exclusive for WaterUKnow, we had the privilege of hearing from the two nominees Rebecca Rippon and Lea Yanitsas.

The Head coach of the the NSWIS Women’s Program and Aussie Stingers Assistant Coach Rebecca Rippon has been recognized as a finalist in the Southern Design Coach of the Year category. Rippon, who previously held coaching roles with NSWIS and the ACU Cronulla Sharks as part of the OVO Australian Water polo League, has joined up with the Aussie Stingers coaching ranks, the dual Olympian helping to usher through the next generation of aspiring Olympians.

There is a lot of great coaches in the NSWIS, how does it feel to be part of the nominated few?

I am very honored to be nominated against some of the absolute best coaches in our country. They have all achieved amazing things with their athletes and I feel very humbled to be nominated for this award alongside them all.

You are the head coach of the NSWIS women program, and the program itself also got a nomination. What do you think made the difference this year?

I am really fortunate to have an amazing team of people to work with in my program at NSWIS. The people I work alongside are specialists in their field and they work with me to ensure my program is the best that is possibly can be. We really worked hard on ensuring that we had an individualized approach to the AWL season which not only allowed them to perform for their clubs but to ensure that they were best prepared for their national camps/world champs preparation as possible. Also it was a major priority to work hard on the squad culture. I wanted it to be a challenging high performance environment yet still a place where the athletes loved to come and train. It is the place they spend so much of their time and it needs to be somewhere they feel they can develop as an athlete and as a person.”

Rio Olympian Lea Yanitsas has also earned her place on the list of finalists for the Ian Thorpe AM Outstanding Achievement award Presented by Ryde Toyota after overcoming some significant challenges over the past year.

Lea was recalled to the Aussie Stingers in March, following the birth of her child in October 2018. Her extraordinary commitment earned her selection into the national team for the 2019 FINA World Championships, where she went on to win a bronze medal alongside her Stingers teammates. In addition to her sporting and personal commitments, Yanitsas also dedicates what’s left of her time to completing her Masters in Physiotherapy.

First of all we would love to wish your son the happiest of birthdays. It has been an amazing year for you. You have stepped back from water polo for a little bit to focus on your private life. Yet you are back now, and in such a great style.The moment you got back in the team, the history was rewritten with fantastic bronze medal at the world championship in Korea. On top of that you have been nominated for NSWIS athlete of the year.

“This year has been amazing. Andrew (my husband) and I were so lucky to have such a healthy, happy baby boy – Dino. There were the usual challenges of sleep and not knowing what you are doing as a new parent but we are so blessed Dino is growing so well. We are also very fortunate that we have a lot of support from family and friends! We have called upon our village a lot in the last year and they have always been generous with their love and help.”

Getting back in the pool felt great I loved the feeling of moving my body again of stretching out and of achieving goals separate to mummy life. It was tough though! The logistics where a bit of a nightmare, so much planning, when/how was Dino going to sleep, or eat, did I pack enough clothes, enough nappies, enough everything.  But we got the hang of it! Training on zero sleep was a whole new level of exhaustion. I knew I wanted to be there but my brain was running at 20% but again we got support and now our little man sleeps well and we all get rest. I was also fortunate in this time to have the support from my coaches; club, NSWIS, strength and conditioning and national team. They were patient and afforded me the flexibility to build back into full training in a smart and sustainable way, that meant I could look after my baby, myself and my family, while achieving targets along the way.

Being selected for world champs 2019 was a very proud moment for me. I was thrilled to be back competing in the green and gold. Especially so, less than a year from welcoming Dino, I had asked a lot of my body and it had delivered. I was honoured to be back representing my country and I was very very keen to see what the world’s best had to offer a year out from the Olympics. 
Coming away with the bronze medal was incredible! Like any 2 week long tournament it was not without its challenges but our group band together with a guttsie and gripping game against Hungary, it was brilliant to reap the benefits of all our hard work! We had come along way in the previous 12 months as a collective and it was exciting to know that still, with many things to work on and further to challenge ourselves we were at least on the right track to our target. We made history again for Australian women’s water polo – what an honor to join those few incredible women. 
It certainly motivated me to push myself harder again. I still have more to give, not only to perform as I previously have but to exceed that to play better than I ever have before.

Being nominated for the NSWIS Ian Thorpe Outstanding Achievement Award comes as a large shock. I am deeply humbled to have been considered worthy of a nomination. My year has not been without great effort physically, mentally and emotionally to get myself back up to international standard but I am only able to strive for my dreams because of the people around me. My husband is my greatest support! He works tirelessly for our little family, and cares for Dino when I am away. Our parents and friends have also been our rocks over this year helping with Dino daily, so much so that my father has moved to Canberra to be Dino’s carer while I train at the AIS in preparation for Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Andrew works in Sydney.

I am so grateful for the chance to chase my dreams and I know how lucky I am for each second I get in the pool. Not everybody has the environment around them that I am so fortunate to have; Andrew, Dino, family, friends and my water polo village too; our team!!”

The annual awards will be presented at a celebration at Royal Randwick Racecourse on Thursday 14 November, with some of the biggest names in sport from across New South Wales in attendance.

We wish Rebecca and Lea best of luck at the Awards Nights.