WHEN the Bunbury Water Polo Club was formed in 1971 the men's team didn't go up against any teams from Mandurah, Busselton or even Kalgoorlie - but inmates from the Bunbury Prison.
Every Thursday evening, a handful of members from the Bunbury Surf Life Saving Club got together to play the sport at the old, outdoor pool once located at the South West Sports Centre.
Bunbury Water Polo Club founding member Wayne Mould told the Mail all about the balmy Thursday evenings playing against the prisoners.
"It was quite funny at first because we didn't have any of the right equipment," Mould said.
"We had two chairs with a steel picket fence across the top as the goals and we read the rules of water polo from a 'Know Your Game' book for kids.
Mould further recalled a prisoner named 'Hooky', who only had one hand.
"The rules are that you can only catch the ball with one hand - but because Hooky had one missing he used to catch the ball with his stump and his other hand.
"And he'd always say he couldn't be disqualified because he was only using one of his hands," Mould laughed.
In 2021, the Bunbury Water Polo Club, with half a century of memories and wins behind them, celebrated their 50th anniversary.
Held at the water polo clubrooms at the South West Sports Centre, the anniversary celebration marked an opportunity for life members and ex-club presidents to come together and reminisce on the progress the club had seen.
The Mail caught up with current club president Alice Luscombe to talk about history of the club, from 1971 to now, who said one of the biggest differences was that the club had progressed from a male-dominated sport, to inclusive for all.
"The club was very male-based at the start with eight or so men's teams," Luscombe said.
"It was a very physical, rough sport that the men would play and then enjoy a beer after. But now you could say it is very family orientated with multiple generations playing in the same team. It's definitely a lot of fun and a great sport to get into - if you love the water, are a good swimmer and competitive - water polo is the sport for you."
After the initial prisoner games in the 1970s, the Bunbury Water Polo Club attended the Western Australian State Country Championships in Kalgoorlie in 1981.
By 1987, they had won their first victory, which included female long-time member Kylie English playing in the men's team.
The official, Bunbury clubrooms opened in 1990, cementing the club as an official part of the region.
By 1991, the first Bunbury women's team participated in the state country championships.
Long time member Peter Edwards, who has been involved in the club for 45 years, referred to water polo as "a great sport, with great people."
He said it was a great sport to play at any time "especially" as an older player.
"It has fitness, great comradery and is a real, family friendly club," Edwards said. "I'm in my 60s and am now playing against my son Jayden and daughter Ebony, who are both in their 30s. These past years have just been a wonderful experience."
Luscombe said the Bunbury Water Polo Club now had an under 12's team (flippers), juniors, men's and women's, but new members were always welcome.
The club can next be seen in Busselton as part of the Tri Series against teams from Busselton and Mandurah on January 23.