Bolton School Senior Boys

Holland Tour for Year 8 Water Polo Team

The Year 8 Water Polo team travelled out to the Netherlands at the start of the summer holidays to compete with a variety of Dutch teams. Coach Mr McGinty sent the following report of the team’s exploits on the Holland Tour:


The first game was against WZK Wassenaar. Last year, the Bolton School side won rather comfortably without being tested too much, thanks to a much older squad consisting of a plethora of the school’s GB players. Unfortunately, Wassenaar were not ready to let the same thing happen this year. They confronted the Bolton School team with a challenge: instead of providing an equivalent U13 team, they in fact sent out an U18 team!

If any of the boys on the Bolton School team imagined they might win using strength, this was now very much off the agenda. The attitude and approach of the boys was to their credit and they set about the uphill task of overcoming the obvious size disadvantage they faced. In actual fact they played incredibly well, with every player showing that their technical ability as well as their mobility was far superior to the Wassenaar team. This led to a closely fought match with stand out performances from Elliot Mathieson and Captain Jos Winstanley. The game ended with a 15-8 loss, with Bolton being heavily punished for the slightest mistake from the vastly bigger and more experienced Wassenaar team. However, in truth, the atmosphere was such that this felt like a victory.

Given that the boys played a match against an U18s team and gave such a good account of themselves, the school’s U18 team of Aaron Winstanley, Lewis Daly et al need to watch this space!

It is also worth mentioning that the culture in Holland is to play with a size 5 ball from a young age. This was a huge culture shock to the Bolton players, who are used to a size 4, and especially to the youngest member, Gareth Edwards Williams, who has only recently moved on from a size 3 ball! However, he did not let this stop him from notching his first goal of the tour in the match against WZK Wassenaar.

On Wednesday, the team set off to play MNC Dordrecht. After a forty-five minute journey turned into two hours and thirty minutes, the boys aptly renamed the school bus a sauna on wheels! Upon arrival and after the heat of the journey, two games in an icy cold pool were a welcome prospect.

However, once again the boys were facing older and certainly bigger opposition: Dordrecht’s U15 team. After two days of playing against higher age groups, the boys were starting to get suspicious that this had been planned – which led to Mr McGinty and Mr Windsor assuring them that this was not the case! The Dutch teams had been told the correct age groups when the games were arranged, so they could only assume that the scars of losing last year remained very much in the memory of the opposition.

After refocusing, and buoyed from the success against Wasanaar, the boys battled to a 5-4 win in the first game, with some poor decision making and dubious refereeing decisions preventing a larger win. After a brief break for food and drink kindly provided by the hosts, the boys set about playing once more. This time the Dordrecht team started strongly and eventually went on to win 8-5. This loss was slightly more frustrating than the Wassenaar game, as the Bolton School team were a little hard done by in terms of refereeing. After a post match debrief, the team headed back to the hotel with the team focusing on the positives and hopefully learning from the negatives of the day.

The fourth game was against AZC Alphen on Thursday. This team were known to have a strong set up from previous meetings both last year in Holland and more recently in England, when the Bolton School U16 team suffered a narrow loss.

The moment the boys had been waiting for had arrived: they were playing an U13 team at last! After initial excitement at playing a team similar to their own age and size, the boys settled to listen to the team talk before putting in a great performance and winning the game 13-3.

Later the same day, the boys played Den Haag: the only team on the trip that Bolton School had not played before.  The Bolton School side had been informed by other teams that Den Haag were not to be taken lightly: they were on the up after the arrival of new head coach Joey Den Beer, a highly sought after coach who was described by numerous teams as the best youth coach in Holland!

After arriving at the impressive Hofbad sports complex and agreeing on the parameters on which the game would be played, the match began with Captain Jos Winstanley delivering a masterclass of man marking throughout, keeping Den Haag’s star player quiet throughout the game. As if to showcase that he can attack just as well, Jos opened the scoring with a powerful effort that went in off the post; he would add to his tally throughout the game. After a goal by Simon Lems and a return effort from Den Haag, the score stood at 2-1 after the first quarter. The short break allowed the Bolton team to refine their tactics slightly, which led to their score creeping ahead with great success from their centre forward play, with both Kurtis Watson and Sam Barrett contributing to the goals tally.

Entering the second half, it was still all to play for. Den Haag asked questions of the Bolton School defence, which were often answered by the centre back. Vice Captain Jack Phillips often used his positional excellence to great effect, leading to interceptions which began the Bolton School counter-attacks. After great play by Kurtis Watson and Sam Barret in centre forward, Bolton School won plenty of one-man advantages, which were often dispatched by one of the school’s left handed trio: Jacob Male, Elliot Mathieson and Aaron Murray.

The game ended with a convincing score of 12-5, which was one of the best performances of the tour! A real team effort was crucial for this match, as were some important saves by goalkeeper Matthew Schaffel.

The final two games of the tour were on Friday against Kouderkerk, and after the improvements made throughout the week the boys were highly motivated to end on a high. Upon arrival, the boys were excited to play in their first outdoor pool especially in the glorious sunshine. After a moment of silence before the game as a mark of respect to those who had lost their lives in the recent tragic air disaster, the game began.

During the first half of the first game, the Bolton School side played against the sun, which proved a new obstacle they had to overcome! After some confusion, the boys went on to establish a healthy lead at half time with Aaron Murray standing out with a fine goal off the post against Kouderkerk’s U14 team. Half time came and went, and the second half meant that the boys had the advantage of playing with the sun behind them. Their second half advantage helped the boys to an 11-4 win.

The second game was not to be so straightforward, with Kouderkerk providing an U17 team to test the Bolton School side. Despite a great performance, the boys fell to a 10-4 loss; but again, against a much older team it was very difficult to see the experience as anything other than positive.


In between the Water Polo matches, the boys found time to enjoy dinner at the pancake house, and played American football on several mornings and evenings throughout the trip. They managed to fit in a go-karting experience, where Ben Forshaw’s amazing lap times achieved second place on the leaderboard for the month, and braved a scary history lesson at the Amsterdam Dungeons! The boys ended their time in the Netherlands with a day at the Duinrell Amusement Park on Saturday followed by one last meal at the pancake house. They finally had time for a shopping expedition in Delft before the ferry home on Sunday.

Looking back at the tour as a whole, Mr McGinty said, “I've been very pleased to coach this team of incredibly talented young players and I'm very excited for their future. The attitude of the players suggests a much older team when in the water, and I really can see nothing but great times ahead for this group if they continue to be as committed as they have been so far.  I can say I'm very proud to have been their coach for the past two years, and especially in this past week.”

The team after their victory over the Kouderkerk U14s

The team after their victory over the Kouderkerk U14s

Discussing tactics before the match against MNC Dordrecht

Discussing tactics before the match against MNC Dordrecht

The Den Haag match at the Hofbad sports complex

The Den Haag match at the Hofbad sports complex