THE loss of long-serving Hunter Hurricanes goalkeeper Angus Crowley was always going to leave a gaping hole for player-coach Dan Marsden.
But Marsden believes he has not just filled the vacancy but recruited a man who could take the Australian Water Polo League by storm.
American giant Matt Rapacz debuted overnight for the Hurricanes in their season opener against the University of Western Australia Torpedoes in Perth.
Rapacz was recruited from the University of California, Los Angeles, where his performances led to selection in the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches All-American side on Tuesday.
‘‘We heard he may have been interested about coming out through another American player and we put the feelers out,’’ Marsden said.
‘‘We had a lot of people who wanted to play, but he’s the guy we wanted to get as he is one of the top goalkeepers going around in the US.
‘‘He’s six-foot-six and his arm span is massive and he has great reaction time.
‘‘I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets looked at for the US national team.’’
American Ross Sinclair, who is a former leading goal-scorer in the AWPL, has also rejoined the Hurricanes after he was poached by Drummoyne Devils last year.
Last season the Hurricanes finished eighth, nine points short of an elusive first finals campaign.
In his second campaign at the helm Marsden expects big improvement, especially from his rising rookies.
Last weekend the Hunter trio of Nathan Power, Matt Skinner and Gordon Marshall were named in the under-20 Australian squad.
‘‘Last year we had a slow start because I think there were guys still finding their feet,’’ he said. ‘‘Towards the end of the season they were starting to understand their roles and what was required from them and I think they’ve stepped up again.’’
It will be a tough introduction to this year’s competition for the Hurricanes. After last night’s match they will play the Fremantle Mariners tonight and on Sunday, and UWA again tomorrow.