It was a day to remember for the Orange Water Dragons who came away with a silver medal in front of their home crowd.
Orange Aquatic Centre hosted nearly 400 students from across the state last weekend for the under 12s Water Polo Festival.
Sarah Sokol, alongside Gavin Pilossof, coached the Water Dragons side which finished the tournament in second place.
Sokol was ecstatic.
"My expectation for them overall is just to have fun and participate," she said.
"Just to get in there, give it a go and try new things."
There was a prime example of this in the shape of young Reggie Staniforth.
"I had said to the kids beforehand, make sure you look at the clock, look at the referee, learn new skills and try and think about what you can practice on," Sokol added.
"We were playing against Ryde and there was less than ten seconds on the clock.
"Reggie was on the left hand side of the field, he turned around and had a quick look at the clock, five seconds to go and did this back hander and from the angle he was at I thought 'no way he get this', but it went straight into the goal.
"I asked him afterwards what he was thinking and he said he just looked at the clock and remembered us saying that if there are just seconds to go, then give it a go."
The Water Dragons side was made up of seven Orange players and three other 'draftees' from the Northern Beaches.
"Those three kids were such a great boost," Sokol said
"It's so great for the kids in Orange as well to be able to meet other kids from Sydney or wherever and see their playing standard."
There were a few concerns that COVID may have impacted participation at this year's event.
But those worries were quickly washed away, with the addition of five extra sides on top of the 18 that competed in 2020.
"So many people said they love coming to Orange and it's so nice to hear and the kids just shine," Sokol said.
"For us, we say to our group that learning to be part of a team, being able to understand how to practice those skills and just to give their best in every game is our expectation for them.
"The more games they play the more they learn. To come second beating Canberra Vikings, the Ryde Rhinos and Tamworth, they did really well."
"There are other festivals they can go to as well. The next one is a Sydney festival in April in the holidays and I think we'll have one or two go along to that.
"It's an exciting time."
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