National Water Polo League: US college players Chris Whitelegge and Eric Van de Mortel line up for Hunter Hurricanes

READY: US imports Chris Whitelegge and Eric Van de Mortel before Hunter Hurricanes training at Lambton Pool on Tuesday. Picture: Josh Callinan
READY: US imports Chris Whitelegge and Eric Van de Mortel before Hunter Hurricanes training at Lambton Pool on Tuesday. Picture: Josh Callinan

After a month of training US imports Chris Whitelegge and Eric Van de Mortel are keen to experience the National Water Polo League first hand with the Hunter Hurricanes.

The 23-year-old Californian boys have been recruited from the college system for the 2017 season in Australia and will line up for Hunter in back-to-back double headers north of the state border during the next four days.

The opening rounds have the Hurricanes up against the Queensland Breakers at Fortitude Valley Pool on Thursday (7.30pm) and Saturday (8.30pm) in between meetings with the Brisbane Barracudas at Stuartholme School Swimming Centre on Friday (9pm) and Sunday (11.30am).

“I’m really excited to see what type of player you get over here and taking the first competition with these guys,” Van de Mortel said. 

“It’s hard to know what it will be like [compared to home] because practice is only up and down, but once we start playing we’ll find out.”

His countryman agreed in between sessions at Lambton Pool this week.

“It’s my first time in Australia and I’m looking forward to a great season and whatever comes from this journey,” Whitelegge said.

“We’ll see what it’s like once we get into the games.”

Incoming coach Dan Robinson, a Hurricanes veteran who has retired from playing and takes over from Al Caldwell, said the injection of fresh players from overseas would be vital to this campaign.

Van de Mortel, from UCLA, is a right-handed drive shooter while Whitelegge, from Santa Barbara, provides a goalkeeper.

“We’ve always had a really good relationship with the US college teams,” Robinson said.

“Starting back when I first came to the club roughly 10 years ago. Now a few of those players are recommending other young players for us and we have sent a few players over there as well.

“Last year we didn’t have any imports, no one helping us out from overseas, and it makes a big difference. These boys have come straight out of the college season and are fit and ready to go.”

Robinson, Nick Campbell and the Bryant brothers have finished playing for Hunter.

Round one of this season’s NWPL is being played in memory of Cole Miller, a Brisbane-based 18-year-old player who was killed 12 months ago after being hit by a coward punch. 

Overnight, the visiting Fremantle Mariners beat the Drummoyne Devils 7-6. 

In the women’s competition Hunter hit the water at home next weekend with dual encounters against the Victorian Seals under new coach Jenny MacGregor.

“We've always had a really good relationship with the US college teams."

Hunter Hurricanes coach Dan Robinson