IT’S fair to say 2020 didn’t quite live up to what Andrew Ford had hoped. It had the possibility of being the year of his life if he got to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics, but instead he hopes that can happen in 2021 and he’s looked at the positives.
Ford has now played 75 times for the Aussie Sharks in international water polo and having been part of the team that won the FINA World Cup silver medal in 2018, there was every reason for him to have high hopes of being picked in the team to go to Tokyo this year.
Obviously thanks to COVID-19 the Olympic Games never ended up happening just like the Australian Water Polo League season was cut short and virtually all sport around the world has been heavily impacted in one way or another.
But for the 25-year-old West Australian who played in the UWA Torpedoes national league triumph of 2016 and has played at the UNSW Wests Magpies the last couple of seasons, he has tried to look at the positives to come out of everything that has happened in 2020.
On the back of being part of Australia’s team that won bronze at the 2019 FINA World League tournament and then putting together another impressive AWL season with the Magpies, Ford was in a strong position to play for the Sharks in Tokyo at the Olympics.
And after winning silver at the World Cup and bronze in the World League, the Sharks were in a strong position to make a run at winning a medal in Tokyo as well but then all of a sudden the Coronavirus hit and it soon became clear there would be no Olympics in 2020.
Not only that, but once the AWL season was cancelled everything was shutdown and Ford returned home to Perth and there was months without being able to train and work on his water polo game.
It certainly gave him plenty of time to reflect on where he was at in life and his water polo, and on where he wants to head moving forward. What he’s come away feeling is that he desperately now wants to go to the Olympics should they eventuate in 2021.
“2020 has brought some different perspective on the whole journey. The complete shutdown of competition and training helped me out a little as I was finishing my Masters Thesis in June. It also gave me some time to think over what my plans for the future,” Ford said.
“For water polo it could be seen from a few different angles. One is that the boys were in form and feeling good after some solid training camps with Croatia and the US.
“It’s up to us to make sure we haven’t taken any steps backward. Personally, I have been able to work on some parts of my game which have been lacking. I’m excited to get back to some more competition and try and implement the changes.”
Being back in Western Australia has meant that Ford has been among the first group of top level water polo players across the world to be able to get back playing with the commencement of the Water Polo WA A-League competition.
That got underway back in September and now five rounds in with Ford playing for the UWA Flotsam team, and he is grateful and delighted to be able to be back playing water polo again.
“It’s been awesome. There’s a fair few boys who I haven’t played with since junior days and jumping back in the pool with them has been a lot of fun,” he said.
“WA is always going to be home for me. Water polo has given me a chance to see a lot of different places around the world but there is something you can’t beat about Perth and the surrounds.”
He isn’t the only Ford back in WA and playing in the A-Grade competition either with older brother George, who did play for Australia at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
Whether Andrew’s playing with or against George, he always enjoys getting back in the pool with his brother and neither have yet given up hope of being able to go to the Olympics together either.
“Playing with him or against him, it’s always a lot of fun. He’s a pretty handy polo player to have as a teammate and an opponent that keeps you honest. George has been a massive part my polo career and I’ve been lucky to have him to lean on when I need it,” Ford said.
“That would be special to share the experience. I think there has been a good history of brothers in the Sharks. There’s a chance that we could even join the Blake and Lachlan Edwards as a second brother duo in the team so we will see!”
The 2021 AWL season is yet to be confirmed and with the uncertainty still over COVID restrictions and travelling possibilities, there’s a lot of questions to be answered.
As a result, Ford isn’t quite sure what his plans are and if he might remain home to play with the Torpedoes, go back to the Magpies or indeed even end up doing something else.
Whatever decision he makes will be with an eye to giving him the best chance to earn selection with the Sharks for the Olympics, but there’s still a lot to be worked out yet.
Having played in that gold medal triumph with the Torpedoes, it wasn’t easy for Ford to make the move to join the Magpies, but it’s something he has thrown himself fully into and has enjoyed.
The results in terms of national honours since have been obvious too but it certainly was weird first up to play against the Torpedoes for the first time.
“Leaving WA was a big step for me to take and was about putting myself in the best position for a successful Olympic campaign,” he said.
“UNSW have been amazing in welcoming me to ‘The Nest’. They are a great club who have made move to Sydney easier than I could have hoped for.
“Yeh, it was a little strange the first game. I don’t think I did too much damage against them that game which I copped a bit of flack for from the Wests boys.”
It’s impossible to not think that this time next year Ford might have gone through the whole experience of going to an Olympic Games, and everything he’s doing now is with an eye to being there if they do indeed end up taking place.
“Fingers a toes are crossed… there has been some positive talk from the national sporting bodies which is exciting,” Ford said.
“We are preparing as though the games are a certainty which is the only way to approach it.”