Onward to Tokyo: The 50th Anniversary of Australia’s 1964 Olympic Men’s Water Polo Team.


WA Host 1964 Olympic Team Reunion

WA Host 1964 Olympic Team Reunion

An anniversary dinner was held at The Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle last week on Friday for the
members of Australia’s 1964 Men’s Water Polo Team.

It was a reunion that bought back vivid memories and plenty of stories from the Tokyo Olympics,
both in and out of the pool.

’64 team member Les Nunn reminisced about the team’s journey to Tokyo, saying that they were
the last water polo team who travelled by ship to a host city and described what the team did after
the games had finished.

“We were the last Olympic water polo team to travel by ship. It took four weeks to get there, but we
played games during stopovers (which included) Columbo, Sri Lanka”.

“I loved Tokyo; it was the first and only time I went there. Even then it was such a big and busy city,
but the Japanese people were so friendly and really put on a show for the Olympics”.
“When the games were over, we hit the town and went to some nightclubs. Perth didn’t really have
any nightclubs back then, so it was amazing to go to nightclubs in Tokyo, but entry cost 50 pounds”.
“We were all single and did the things young Aussie men do when they travel”, he said.

Water polo legend Tom Hoad was part of the ’64 team and remembered the challenges they faced
against the only other teams in their group – the USSR and Germany. Belgium was to be the fourth
team, but didn’t show up.

“In 1964 we played 3 games (against) Russia and Germany. (We) didn’t play further than that
(because) if you weren’t in the top two you were eliminated immediately, and we only had three in
our group. Russia and Germany were in the top 4 teams (in the world), so we had a bad draw. But Belgium, the
team we could’ve beaten didn’t turn up”, he said.

After the Olympics, the team decided to tour Europe for three months to gain experience and play
against stronger water polo teams.

“After ‘64 we knew we couldn’t play water polo (against strong water polo playing countries), and
Tom said we got to go over there and learn how to play. So we did”, said team member Ian Mills.
He also said, “We paid our own way, and spent three months in Europe playing the game… and the
people we played against would foot the accommodation bill and put us on the train to the next

One of the games played on the tour was against West Germany where, according to Mr Hoad, they
drew the first match 4-4, and won the second 3-2.

Getting to Europe was an experience in itself, and rather than take a plane they once again travelled
by ship.

“We travelled every day for three months… because in those days an airfare was 2000 pounds to go
from Australia to Europe, and we got a special discount from a Greek line for 100 pounds. That was
twenty times the difference!”, exclaimed Mr Hoad.

Mr Nunn’s recollections of the journey, which are shared by his teammates, were positive and
because of the experiences, they forged strong friendships that have lasted until the present day.
“It was great fun on the ship; we trained every morning in a very small pool. We really bonded
because we were together for so long – more than three months in total”.

“That is why our bond has remained so strong throughout the years, and when we catch up, we
reconnect instantly. We are like brothers and friends for life”.
“Water polo teams are different now because they only spend a week or so abroad, just play the
games, and return back to their normal lives when they return home. We had the opportunity to
develop really close friendships”, he said.


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