Part Two: One on One with 16year old SA U18 Water Polo Rising Star Nick Downes

Fri, 16/11/2012 - 14:32
  • Nick Downes SA U18 Water Polo and Clifton 1st team


Team Age
1st XV Clifton Rugby 16
1st Clifton Water Polo Debut 11
1st Clifton Water Polo Squad 14
KZN U13 13
KZN U14 14
KZN U15 15
KZN U18 16
SA U18 16

In Part two of our exclusive interview with Nick Downes, he talks about his dream of one day playing on the same team as his brothers, his thoughts on teammate Wyatt Edwards, and the special lady in his life. He also shares his non-competitive side touching on the importance of being well rounded and cultured.

HSSM: Where do you think the standard of Clifton is compared to the rest of the country in terms of water polo?

“what I think is that we are the best in the country”

Nick Downes: Definitely one of the top schools, this year we proved it. Our first team has only lost one game the whole year. The stayers were a bit of a letdown, we didn’t play as well as we could have. The stayer’s tournament [St. Stithians] is to produce players for next year and next year is a different story. You train a good team, we haven’t trained with this specific team the whole year so we trained with our goalkeeper and Matrics, and they were our team and the core. Every year the Matrics are the core of the team, they have been there the longest so what I think is that we are the best in the country, we have beaten the best in the country. Obviously we haven’t played SACS with our full first team, but we as the boys at Clifton and the water polo community in this city, we actually put in the effort to play hard and we don’t just play for the school, we play with each other and because of the effort we put in, we train together all the time. When we play it shows in the pool.

“we don’t want to disappoint him [Mr Rowe] because he is such an inspiration to us”

HSSM: What do you think sets Clifton High School apart from the rest of the schools? You guys have been tried and tested for many years, and you guys have dominated school water polo. What do you think it is about Clifton?
Nick Downes: I think personally it’s Mr. Rowe. He sets what our water polo is for the year and he has goals for us. Because of what he has done for our school with water polo, we want to make him proud, we don’t want to disappoint him because he is such an inspiration to us. He pushes us to be the best and he gives us advice, but it’s also probably because we have old boys who come back to train with Mr Rowe. We have our Clifton water polo league, the old boys – the Walrus team is one of the best clubs in the country. They are top 3 or 4 but they train with us and they give off what they have learnt from him and it’s just about giving what you know, your knowledge to other people. I think once the younger guys come in, which Mr. Rowe puts a lot, he lets the young guys come in, we as the seniors rub off what we learnt on to them and they build themselves up so that next year they play harder and harder.

HSSM: Looking at the SA U18 men’s water polo team going into 1st FINA Youth Water Polo Mens Championships, there are seven guys from KZN, do you think that’s a sign of dominance from the province?
Nick Downes: Well you know, it’s probably determined at the trials. I think that it shows that while the other schools are resting, we carry on. It’s a great achievement that four Clifton boys made it.  Yes, Wyatt too, to make it as a non-traveling reserve is unbelievable as well. He is also in grade 10 with us, so when you put it into perspective on how many youngsters we got in that team, we are also going to grow in two years’ time when we have another U18 team when we are there again. I think that it definitely has to do with the dominance of KwaZulu-Natal, but there are also quite a few Joburg schools, which shows that they are also very strong.

HSSM:  Your U15 struggled against Northwood and U14 against DHS at the KZN Top 10. Is that a sign of what might happen in the future?

“I’m honored and humbled to be part of the South African team”

Nick Downes: Well it shows that there is up and coming schools that are pushing us to make ourselves better. You’re never going to grow as a school and players if you’re never tested on a day-to-day basis. When you get tested is where you start improving, so with the U15 we have to remember that two of their main players are playing in the first team with us because it shows that they are good so they come up. That U15 team was really good and Northwood put on a good side, on another day it could have gone either way. I think that once the DHS’s and the Northwood’s, those different age groups push together and try to get their sport going, they will actually grow the sport.

HSSM: You have achieved quite a lot with high school water polo for a grade 10. You’re 16 and made the SA U18, do you feel like there is still more for you to play for because you have achieved everything at a high school level?

“I’ve played 1st team since grade 8”

Nick Downes: I don’t see it as that. I’m honored and humbled to be part of the South African team but there is still more to give. I know that I personally haven’t reached my peak yet. Next year I want to try making the SA U 21 team, which is almost impossible because there are so many great players who come through and are still playing. That would be a great goal but it would also push me. I think that hopefully in the end I’ll play in the SA men’s team at a young age, play with my brother’s maybe, that could be quite an experience. It’s definitely a humbling experience to have had the achievements that I have had. I’ve played 1st team since grade 8, that’s because I’ve been given the opportunity to play the sport and to play at a high level. I definitely don’t think I’m going to give up anytime soon, I don’t think that I’m going to train less. I think that’s a starting point for me and I’ll grow from that.

"Wyatt, who is an excellent defender and one of the best in the country at defending, defends so no one scores and our goal keeper saves so no one scores"

HSSM: Talking about the teamwork as a whole, looking at the stats you guys never have the top goal scorer but always have the best attack and defensive records from the stats we have collected. Is that a team philosophy for everything to be a team effort?
Nicholas Downes: Yes, it’s actually such a great structure that we have. We’re not dependent on one person. When you’re dependent on one person and they play badly the whole team suffers, but what we try do is shift and people have different roles in the team. Wyatt, who is an excellent defender and one of the best in the country at defending, defends so no one scores and our goal keeper saves so no one scores. Once they save, I as an attacker try work my way into scoring opportunity. We learn in our team it doesn’t matter who scores the goals as long as it’s a team effort. Because having one good player doesn’t help anyone, we try shift the ball around and actually work together as a team. This is a result of doing things as a team, we go to team lunches, or go to my house and play snooker and chill. Murray is an excellent example, I mean he is a great player and can score all the goals, but instead he passes around and sets up the plays and you never get disappointed in people like that. That’s what Mr. Rowe teaches us, to set up our play, play around and be the playmaker instead of the scorer.

“People forget we are only in grade 10”

HSSM: Wyatt has had a phenomenal season this year, and based on his form would you say he deserved to be on the SA u18 travelling squad instead of non-traveling reserve?
Nicholas Downes: I think he was just unlucky, and he is definitely not angry about it. He is actually quite excited; I mean he made an SA squad. It’s still an opportunity for him. He has done so well this term and is a brilliant defender and asset to our team. Next year and the year after he is still going to continue to grow and so he will be one of the defending forces of the country. People forget we are only in grade 10.

"Julian is one of the hardest keepers I would have to say. It’s not very motivating when you hit him like twenty times and you still don’t score"

HSSM: As an attacking player, which was the hardest keeper to score against?
Nicholas Downes: Definitely Julian [Lewis] is one of the hardest, he has got great legs and sometime it’s almost impossible to score against him. Also a really good keeper is St. John’s Alex [Kuttschreuter], he probably has the same technique as Julian has with great legs, but ja, Julian is one of the hardest keepers I would have to say. It’s not very motivating when you hit him like twenty times and you still don’t score. But that just shows without him they would be in trouble, and that’s what contributes to their game that they have a keeper like Julian saving them from a lot of goals.

HSSM: Which would you say was the hardest team you have played against this season?
Nicholas Downes: Probably St. John’s and Reddam[Constantia], at the Clifton tournament. St. John’s has quite a physical team, they are upbeat, they’re quick. I think the reason we were able to beat them was that we shut them down and we attacked so they were forced to defend, so much attack. And plus we wanted revenge from our last tournament where we lost against them in extra time. I also think Reddam are quite good and their game plan is almost identical to ours. In this year’s Clifton tournament, Reddam did try to out-swim us, especially me as they knew I was unfit, but you know it’s a final and your nerves get the better of you sometimes and personally I don’t think it was our best game. The St. Johns game was where we showed how much better we are compared to other teams at the tournament. I think because Reddam were not tested anywhere in the tournament they had an easy way through.

HSSM: Besides making the SA U18 team, which other achievements would you say are memorable to you?
Nicholas Downes: I played 1st team rugby as well, and I’m also part of the wind band at our school. It’s quite a good achievement as it shows the different side of me, as I do love my sports but I also have a cultural side. I’m also the head of the sports portfolio and the council. I really try balance out my life to try getting everything I can into my schooling life because personally I don’t feel you can only fulfill one aspect of life. I’ve also been lucky enough to captain the provincial side I’ve made.

"Goals do not come without hard work"

HSSM: Besides doing school activities and being in the pool, what do you do with your spare time?
Nicholas Downes: Spare time [laughs]... I don’t really have much because of exams and the touring and I try helping Mr. Rowe out a bit. I do a lot of refereeing at other schools for water polo. And the cultural side of my life takes quite a bit of my time as I play the saxophone, and also on the council, so I really don’t have much spare time.
HSSM: What would be your message be for young kids at your prep school and anyone else in the country who looks at your decorated high school life and would like to have similar achievements?
Nicholas Downes: If you dream it believe it, but also train hard so you can achieve your goals. Goals do not come without hard work.

HSSM: And finally Nick, as there any special lady in your life?
Nicholas Downes: [laughing] …No, just my cat.


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