Thursday, April 13, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
A new sport in the Whitsundays is hoping to capitalise on Queensland’s two great loves: the swimming pool and rugby.
Columbian expatriate Nathalie Hartman has launched ‘Come and Try’ sessions in Airlie Beach for her chosen sport of underwater Rugby, a team game where the objective is to score more goals into a basket lying at the bottom of a pool.
Wearing flippers and using a ‘negatively buoyant’ ball in a completely three-dimensional sport, underwater rugby players can pass up, down, and sideways in an amalgam of sports, closest to a zero-gravity version of a full-contact European handball.
Ms Hartman, who was integral in the sports’ expansion in Australia in 2014, has run several tryout training sessions at her home in Cannonvale and at Cannonvale Swimming Pool. She hopes to bring the sport to prominence in the region.
“The closest sport is underwater hockey, though they’re still very different,” Ms Hartman said.
“It’s not like land rugby at all except for the name. The only close part is the tackling!”
The sport is played by two rotating teams of 12 - six players in the pool always, six on the surface ready to substitute – each member wearing a diving mask, snorkels, fins, and a water polo cap with the goal being to score into heavy metal buckets on the pool floor.
“You have eight seconds you spend at the surface, watching the game before you go and replace another player quickly,” Ms Hartman said.
“It’s a great sport. It keeps you fit, and it’s amazing fun. You can play from any age because swimming is so relaxed on your joints.”
Underwater rugby players need strong swimming ability – something Ms Hartman said is inherent for most Australians - alongside attributes like speed, strength, agility, and good teamplay.
“If you like contact sport and you like swimming, you’ll love it,” she said.
The sport is ever-growing in Australia, having made national news on several occasions for its novelty alone, but what players get in return from the sport speaks more than its strangeness.
“The best thing about this sport is that anyone can play it – male, female, young, old – it’s a community as much as it is a competition,” Ms Hartman said.
The next session of Underwater Rugby will be at Cannonvale Swimming Centre from 5.30pm on April 21. Bring a snorkel, fins, and mask.
Nathalie Hartman is bringing underwater rugby to the Whitsundays
“If you like contact sport and you like swimming, you’ll love it!”
The sport is played between two teams of 12, each trying to score into a basket on the bottom of a swimming pool