London Polytechnic captain Jones is keen to make the most of home advantage

London Polytechnic water polo club in action

London Polytechnic water polo club in action - Credit: Archant

London Polytechnic captain Luke Jones is keen to make home advantage count when he leads his side out in the British Championships next weekend.

Polytechnic are one of the country’s oldest water polo clubs – they were founded in 1874 and, having previously played in shared venues, recently formed a partnership with local swimming club Hackney Aquatic.

Now Jones, who has been at the club for four years and has been the skipper for the past two, is calling upon local residents to provide a raucous homecoming when Polytechnic face City of Manchester at Clissold Leisure Centre on Saturday January 31.

Jones said: “It’s been a long time coming. “The change from the shared venue approach really is revolutionary. All I’ve ever known until now has been playing three games each weekend, which has been so knackering.

“Who better to face first up than the current national champions and 2014 finalists Manchester? They have members of the Olympics squad – the goalkeeper and three outfield players – and Manchester was the base for Team GB for a while.

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“We ourselves have a very good core of players, but we’re in a state of flux. We’re looking for a full-time coach at the moment, but all we need is a bit of fine-tuning. It’s an exciting time for the club as we currently have brothers Alexander and Richard Waller – two Team GB

junior players – on our books.”

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Alexander is 15, while his brother Richard is two years older, but both look set for bright futures in the sport, and will be present at the showdown with Manchester.

Nineteen-time championship winners Polytechnic, who are competing as one of the country’s top eight teams, will also host Scottish outfit Portobello in March and Bristol Central in April for a place in the knockout stages in May.

Defeat in the curtain-raiser away at Bristol last weekend means the side is desperate to kickstart their campaign with the scalp of Manchester, and Jones believes the new alliance with Hackney Aquatics will be ivotal in securing long-term success for the club.

“This new partnership has generated 20 to 25 new kids training already,” added Jones, whose father was at the club 30 years ago. “It’s crucial to get youngsters involved.

“London water polo clubs are at a disadvantage to other parts of the country. Other teams have access to 50m pools, whereas until now we haven’t had the opportunity to train often. Most of the country’s best water polo players live in towns outside of London, where the infrastructure has been in place for a long time.”

Simon Gardner-Bond has been affiliated with the club for the past 15 years, taking over the reins as chairman in 2013. He believes the event, which will also include commentary to help first-time spectators understand the rules of the game, is a great opportunity for Hackney residents to watch water polo played at the highest level.

“It’s a minority sport, and the cost of hiring pools has meant in the last 15 years, we’ve effectively played all our matches away – in places like Manchester and Sheffiel,” he said. “This is the first time in a long time we’ve gone back to playing home and away, and we’re hoping for a big turn-out!”

Entry for the City of Manchester clash is free for under-16s and priced at £3 for adults, with further donations towards the running of the event welcome. The game itself starts at 5.45pm.

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