The Early Days
The Tugun Water Polo club started from the Tugun Surf Lifesaving Club at the Gold Coast back in 1963. The first members of the club were a group of Surf Lifesavers that found water polo an exciting and great way to maintain their fitness. The team first competed in the B Grade division until 1967, coming second in 1965 and 1966. In 1967 the team started to play A-grade and did so with great success. Tugun won the grand final and became premiers in their first season playing A-grade. The club first made the Valley Pool their home pool in Brisbane but moved in 1968 to the then newly built pool in South Brisbane, Musgrave Park Pool (pictured below in 1968 and 1969 – Photos Courtesy BCC)
The 70’s & 80’s
In the early 70s Brisbane Water Polo required teams to have not only A Grade but lower Grade teams in order to compete. As such, the Tugun boys enlisted several members from The Brothers Rugby Club to form teams in other grades. As the club’s number grew, junior teams started to train as well. Rugby profile Tony Shaw was one of the successful youngsters who joined the club and he represented Queensland on several occasions. Tony was later selected for the Wallabies and gave up water polo to put his full energy into Rugby. This proved to be a wise decision; Tony later went on to become the captain of the Wallabies.Tugun Seahorses, as the club was known in the early days, had many successful years, only missing out on top two twice between 1968-72.The club’s strong profile was also reflected in the number of players who made state teams. Tugun supplied the bulk of players to these teams during the 60s and 70s. In 1973 Tony West, goalkeeper, was the first Queenslander to play for Australia.
In 1973, the club fielded their first Women’s Team. Most of the players came from the Swimming Club, Musgrave Park City-Past Time, who trained at the same pool. In the beginning, the women only had an Open team who competed in the A grade competition. The women had their first success winning the A-grade Premiership in 1977. When the women’s team first started, water polo was a relatively new sport for women in Queensland. Around the country, other states had played the sport for several years. By the early 80s though, Tugun had a very strong women’s team and was becoming more dominant. Many of the girls playing for the club represented Queensland in different State teams. Debbie Larkin (Pictured right – Photo Courtesy Debbie Powell) was in 1976 the first female from Tugun to play for Australia, but her sister Alison Larkin was the first member from the club to represent Queensland in a state team. The B-grade team wasn’t started until 1980 and after that year lower grades and junior teams also began.
The 90s Onward At the local level, the 90s marked the dominance of the Tugun Club with the A Grade men winning a record 10 premierships in a row and the women also sharing the podium alongside the men with wins in 1989 through to 1993. In the early 90s the Australian National League was started on the Men’s side replacing the existing National Club Championships. Tugun first entered a team by themselves, but protests were made until Queensland Water Polo took over and a team with players from all the different local clubs entered the competition. In 1995, the National League replaced the Men’s National Championships (state-based), of which Queensland had never won despite competing in the competition since 1948.In 1998, Tugun entered a team named the Brisbane Barracudas in the Australian National League Water Polo competition. The difference from previous years in the National League was that now the team was part of Tugun’s organisation and no longer run by Queensland Water Polo. This team despite being run by Tugun still featured players from the various Brisbane based club.
The Barracudas Men’s National League team finished 4th in 1999, 5th in 2003 and in 2004 were Premiers of the National League for the first time. The Barracudas’ 2004 Men’s National League victory is a historic victory for men’s water polo in Queensland, as since 1948 no Queensland men’s open team has ever won any National Championship or National League Title. In 2004, Tugun merged its National League name – the “Brisbane Barracudas” with the rest of the club at all age group levels. All teams representing the club from this year on are called “Barracudas” although the club is still widely associated with its historic name – Tugun.Also in 2004, the Australian National Water Polo League welcomed the women to the competition replacing the former Senior Club National Championships. The young Barracudas women’s team faired well in their first year, finishing 3rd in the regular season out of 12 teams and qualifying for the first ever women’s National League finals. Since then, the Barracudas women have been one of the most successful National League teams in the nation, being one of only four clubs to qualify for the final series every season with Bronze in 2005 & 2008, Silver in 2007, 2012 & 2014, and Gold in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 & 2015. The 2009
victory, the second time Barracudas Club has created history – becoming the first Queensland team to win a Women’s National League title or Senior Women’s National Championship. In 2010, the Barracudas women made history again with a second consecutive National League title victory – and then backed up for a three-peat in 2011 – becoming the first women’s team in National League history to win three consecutive titles.The women again created history in 2015 winning their fifth title from seven consecutive grand final appearances.In 2013, the club celebrated its Golden Anniversary with over 300 guests attending a Black Tie function. Many of the club’s legends and heros were in attendance. It is clear that Barracudas Water Polo Club (Tugun) has been the dominant Club in Brisbane and Queensland and is today considered one of the leading clubs in Australian Water Polo. In 2004, the club boasted 5 Olympians competing in the Athens Games and in 2008, the club produced another 3 Olympians.In 2012, the Club fielded a record 6 Olympians to the London Games. With many young up and coming players within the club’s junior ranks, as well as numerous veterans of the sport still participating, it appears that the club will continue to be at the forefront of water polo within Australia for many more years to come.