NATHAN Thomas returned to the South and West War Memorial Pool where his water polo career started to do what he first experienced more than 20 years ago as a fresh-faced young Tamworth High School student.
On Saturday morning the former Australian water polo captain and Olympian conducted a water polo clinic for some 26 young fresh-faced juniors.
Thomas could remember the visit and clinic of Australian great Andrew Kerr.
“It was at that clinic I decided I wanted to play for Australia,” he said while running the keen young aspirants through some basic drills.
He said the help and support from coach Ron Surtees, who had slipped down to the Scully Park pool to see his former protege, was immense.
“Seeing Ron when I come home means everything to me,” he said.
“I’m going to try to get him a bit more involved in the coaching too. But don’t tell him yet.”
These days Thomas lives and works in Sydney where he plays for Sydney University in the Sydney competition.
Now 40, the Sydney Olympian, who also played in Europe professionally with Barcelona, is a board member of NSW Water Polo.
“Tim Hamill, the NSW Water Polo development manager will be up in Tamworth later in the year doing another clinic,” he said.
“It’s part of a big push into the regions by us.
“We’re looking for the next Craig Miller (ex-Tamworthian and Sydney Olympian) or the next Sam McGregor.
“Craig grew up here in Tamworth and learned his water polo in this pool.
“Sam captained the Australian men at the London Olympics. He was born in Darwin and grew up in Kempsey.
“A lot of guys from the country have made it into national teams.
“In the 2004 Australian men’s hockey side, seven were from country towns.
“We’ve got great talent in the country areas and we’re having a big push to get out there and help that talent.”
That Thomas “loves these sessions with the kids” is obvious by the way he interacts with them poolside.
“It’s great to see what the locals put into it up here too,” he said.
“And they get good support from local council.”
Tamworth Water Polo Association president Sean Hofman looked on as Thomas ran his two-hour clinic.
“It’s great, fantastic being able to have someone like Nathan come home and run this,” Hofman said.
“It follows on well from a clinic we ran last week.
“We had a really good turnout for that with psychologists, physiotherapists and dieticians doing a four-hour clinic with the kids.”