March 21, 2019 – TCN meets Nathan Power, a 26-year-old water polo player from Newcastle, Australia in his third year in Croatia. Power sat down with us to discuss life in Rijeka vs. Split, the stellar season of VK Jadran Split, the Australian national team (and his Croatian coach), and the things he likes most in Dalmatia – from pašticada to patron saints.
At 26, you’ve played at two clubs in Croatia and achieved the Australia national team’s best result after winning the silver at the FINA World Cup last summer. How did your water polo story begin?
I started playing at the age of 13 for Central Newcastle. Water polo had been my mother’s sport, and this was her local club. From early on I was lucky enough to be picked on representative teams and get to travel all over. A few years later I made my National League debut in Australia for the Hunter Hurricanes, my hometown team. At the age of 20, I was given my first games for the Australian men’s team. I also moved to Sydney and played for three years with the UNSW West Magpies. Then at the beginning of the 2016/17 water polo season, I made a move over to Rijeka to play for Primorje.
VK Jadran Facebook
It’s your third year in Croatia and second year in Split. What have you taken away from your experience so far?
I feel like my knowledge and understanding of the game have increased in the time I’ve spent over here. Playing these three years in both domestic and European club competitions has meant that I’ve been able to learn from competing against some of the world’s top players regularly. I’ve also been lucky to have some very talented and experienced teammates who have been able to teach me.
Also, one of the significant benefits of playing in Europe for an Australian is the chance to focus on improving as a water polo player entirely. In Australia, we must train very early in the morning and late at night, with the hours between dedicated to our university study or our jobs. This can be very taxing both physically and mentally as the chance to rest and recover is quite minimal. Whereas here in Europe, I’ve been able to have a less busy time away from the pool, which allows a better focus and chance to improve in the pool.
Before you moved to Croatia did you have any prior experiences with the country?
Before living in Croatia, I had been fortunate to visit many times with the Australian water polo team. Our Head Coach, Elvis Fatović, and Strength and Conditioning coach, Dejan Kontić, are both from Dubrovnik, which meant we have been fortunate in getting to use Dubrovnik as a base for preparations when we come to Europe. I still remember my first time visiting that city. Before arriving I really didn’t know much at all about the town, but the moment we landed and drove that winding road along the coast that passes above the old town, its beauty was captivating.
Now that you’ve lived in both…Rijeka or Split?
The transition to living in Rijeka I found to be quite easy. The people who I would interact with at cafes, restaurants, and bars were very welcoming and accommodating, leaving me feeling settled pretty quickly. The town has a very open mentality and that translated into it being a very fun place to live. Also, the nearby town of Opatija is incredibly beautiful and has some fantastic restaurants and coffee spots. I guess one thing that did take time to adjust to here was the weather, and I can understand now after living there why there is a reputation for the rain.
In Split, it took longer for me to get settled. My teammates and those involved with the club were great, but my initial interactions with the broader Split community wasn’t as pleasant as Rijeka. This is understandable given the high volume of tourism to Split and my unfamiliarity of the better places to visit in the town. As time passed and I got the chance to frequent places regularly and show that I wasn’t just a tourist, the interactions became far more pleasant. Now after being here for quite a while I have developed some great friends and am feeling very settled into Split life.
And how is life in Split?
Life in Split is really good. Coming from Australia I’m quite used to having a nice temperature for most of the year, and I find that the weather here in Split manages to stay good most of the year. Though I will say it has taken some time to get used to experiencing the bura and the strength it has.
In my free time, I’m either at home trying to rest between sessions or getting out to have a coffee in the city. The old town is so beautiful, making it a great place to sit out with a coffee and do some study or relax. Now that the sea temperature is climbing back up I’ll also be looking to spending more time down at Zvončac in the sea.
For food, I eat quite a bit at Oštarija u Viđakovi and can say I’ve developed a soft spot for pašticada. I also really enjoy getting out and experiencing some of the great restaurants in the city. There is a good mix of domestic cuisine and places bringing new flavors to the town.
After three years here, you must have developed some favorite things about Croatia.
I would say the Croatian coast is definitely a favorite of mine, there are some incredibly beautiful towns along the coast, like Split and Dubrovnik. I’ve also had the chance to visit the islands off these two towns and found them beautiful… and tranquil, which is a great escape to the busier coastal towns. The national parks are another place in Croatia that stand out to me, and I still think about Krka.
Croatia also has some great events that I have really enjoyed experiencing. Rijeka’s Carnival and Split’s Sveti Duje celebration are both days where it’s incredible to see the towns come alive and everybody comes together. The Advent festival is also something which I have grown to enjoy. It’s something that we don’t really do in Australia; to see how the towns transform into these Christmas wonderlands packed full of great food and culture is very cool. I was blown away the first time is saw the Advent up in Zagreb, even though it was too cold to feel my face.
Let’s switch gears to water polo. It’s been an incredible year for Jadran who played in the Champions League for the first time in 24 years, and the club is also doing well in the Regional League. There is an excellent atmosphere at the Poljud pool, and you’re drawing big crowds. How is the atmosphere within the team? What are the goals for the end of the season?
This has been a really enjoyable season so far with Jadran. The addition of Champions league games has been great and, as you said, has created a great atmosphere at the pool. Looking forward, we are reaching the climax of the season and have some incredibly important games to come over the next month and a half in the Champions League, Adriatic League finals and the Croatian League finals. We have proven this season that we can be competitive with the top teams and I believe that we can produce something special in these final months of the season.
And Jadran celebrates 100 years next year.
Jadran is a proud club with a great history. Reaching 100 years as a club is an immense achievement and will be cause for great celebration for Jadran Split next season. As noted before, the atmosphere around the pool has picked up this season with the addition of Champions league water polo and I’m sure the atmosphere will continue to grow next year during their 100th year.
You’re heading back to Australia this week for national team duties in the Intercontinental Cup.
This will be an exciting year with the Australian team as we look to build on the momentum we gained from last years World Cup event in Berlin.
The first event is the Intercontinental Cup in Perth next week and we will be focused on having a great showing and taking it out. We don’t get the opportunity to play International water polo in our home country as much as the European nations, so any chance we get to pull on an Aussie Cap at home is always incredible.
This year the big absence is the USA, as since the event’s inception it has been either Americans or ourselves who have won the tournament. Looking at our opposition, there are definitely still some challenges if we are to come out on top. In our group, we have games against Canada and Japan where we must be focused. Japan especially, as even though we are incredibly familiar with them, they possess a unique style of play that can cause trouble for the opposition. And then later in the tournament, a potential match against Asian Games’ champion Kazakstan is sure to be a physical encounter. In saying all that, I am very confident in our team and our ability to succeed in this tournament.
You’ll also be back with Australian national team this summer. What’s in store?
After that our big tournaments for the year will be the FINA World League in Belgrade and the FINA World Championships in South Korea. From what I understand we have some strong training partners lined up prior to these tournaments, so I believe we will be heading into them with the best preparation possible. It will be interesting to see the groups for the World Championships once they are drawn.
The big goal on the horizon at the moment is the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Having been in the Australian team since 2013 and seen how we have developed as a group I truly believe we are on track to push for Australia’s best result in the men’s water polo competition.
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