A new race for the national water polo championship in Hungary will get underway on Tuesday already. In perhaps the strongest professional league there is this season it will be Szolnok who has the daunting task of defending its championship from last season. But with a staggering number of transfers made this past summer, changes have been made in the field of competitors. First up, however, will be the initial group stage phase, as we know it from last season, where the teams will play the first half of the season (from September 27 to February 22, 2017). Then two more rounds robin will follow before the top 4 teams will play for the championship in the final play-offs stages. The top three finishers will participate in next year’s water polo Champions League while the number 4 is to play Euro Cup in the 2017-2018 edition, only to be joined by the 5th place side if one of the Champions League qualified teams wins the national water polo cup.
Looking to the teams’ rosters, and changes (see below) will quickly tell the story of a busy summer in Hungary. The favourites are still the well-known names but especially FTC is now in the picture after some bold moves. With the addition of veteran Norbert Madaras, Hungary ex-captain Daniel Varga, Olympic champion Stefan Mitrovic and Spain international Balazs Sziranyi the team not only compensated for the absence of the Australian duo of Aidan Roach and Joel Swift, who returned back home but significantly strengthened their roster now to be considered a real championship contender.
It will mean reigning champions Szolnok will not only have ZF-Eger as fellow competitor but also FTC and OSC, who finished 3rd last season but bolstered their centre-forward position by signing Olympic champion Slobodan Nikic, Lukas Seman and talented left-hander Gergö Zalanki. On defence, the absence of Adam Decker (to Eger) and Kevin Graham (returned to Canada) could be felt but in attack, OSC will look different from last season. And it was at the center position where the early absence of Australia big Joe Kayes was felt last year. Now with a talented leftie, who showed his ability at the recent 2016 Olympics, and a powerful and experienced tandem of Nikic and Seman, OSC might really test the defence of both Eger and Szolnok, but only the latter this first half of the season, in group A. And the reigning champions? They did not remain quiet. Losing goalie Attila Decker, Norbert Madaras, Daniel Varga and Stefan Mitrovic was simply bad news but on the other end some great signings were made as French left-hander Ugo Crousillat was welcomed, along with Olympic champion, driver Andrija Prlainovic who is to form a lethal tandem on the left side together with Denes Varga, who will play without his brother Daniel for the first time in their career.
The group of outsiders will also be close again. Here Szeged and Honvéd are likely to be joined by Miskolc who showed signs by advancing to the national cup quarterfinals last weekend playing with an almost new team compared to last year. American Alex Bowen already proved to be a real addition on the offensive end while Montenegro international Sasa Misic will bring his experience to the centre-forward position. But no less than 8 more players were contracted to fill the gap of 7 players leaving, including Aleksandar Njegovan (to Vasas) and Marko Petkovic (to Jadran Herceg Novi).
Other busy sides on the transfer market were Tatabánya and Szentes, although it remains to be seen how much they will be able to threat the expected outsiders Szeged, Honvéd and perhaps Miskolc.
Hungarian water polo league E.ON ob I. transfers
Additions: Decker Ádám (OSC), Kovács Gergő (Honvéd)
Left: Biros Péter (retired), Csoma Kristóf (Miskolc), Szivós Márton (Honvéd), Zalánki Gergő (OSC)
Head coach: Dabrowski Norbert.
Additions: Madaras Norbert, Varga Dániel (both Szolnok), Stefan Mitrovic (Serbian, Szolnok), Szirányi Balázs (CN Atletic-Barceloneta – Spain)
Left: Kolozsi Marcell (Pécs), Marnitz Gergő (Vasas), Aidan Roach, Joel Swift (Australia)
Head coach: Varga Zsolt.
Additions: Várnai Kristóf (Vasas)
Left: Nagy Sándor (retired), Rábavölgyi Zsombor (Tatabánya, on loan), Várhegyi Dániel (Honvéd)
Head coach: Märcz Tamás.
Additions: Decker Attila (Szolnok), Gyárfás Tamás (Vasas), Irmes Pál (FTC), Szivós Márton (Eger), Várhegyi Dániel (BVSC), Duvnjak Starcevic-Bornja (Pécs)
Left: György Dávid (Szentes), Illés Sándor (Szeged), Kardos Gergely (Szolnok), Kovács Gergő (Eger)
Head coach: Vad Lajos.
Additions: Alex Bowen (American), Csoma Kristóf (Eger), Halek Márton, Kincses Attila (both Debrecen), Kósik Soma (Pécs), Lukács Ábel, Lukác Dorián (both Szentes), Sasa Misic (Montenegrin, Kinef Kirishi – Russia), Miklós Levente (KSI), Vadovics Viktor (UVSE)
Left: Bendes Viktor (Egypte), Madaras Markó, Valics Bence (both to USA), Aleksandar Njegovan (Serbian, Vasas), Marko Petkovic (Serbian, Jadran Herceg Novi – Montenegro), Somlai Tamás (Debrecen), Takács János (Szentes)
Head coach: Sike József
Additions: Hegedűs Bence (Szentes), Pataki Gergely (Debrecen), Tóth Kristóf (UVSE), Varga II Zsolt (Szeged)
Left: Albert Barnabás (Szentes), Nikola Nikolov (szerb), Mihajlo Parezanovic (Serbian)
Head coach: Szécsi Zoltán.
Addition: Major Martin
Left: Kiss Kristóf Szeif (Szentes), Szatmári Kristóf (Szolnok), Vadovic Viktor (Miskolc)
Head coach: Németh Zsolt.
Additions: Hoppál Gergely (Debrecen), Jászberényi Gábor (Montpellier – France), Martin Kolarik (Slovakian, Sportul Corona Bucuresti – Romania), Borisz Popovic (Serbian, Red Star Belgrade – Serbia), Rábavölgyi Zsombor (BVSC – on loan for 1 year), Szabó Botond (Heliopolis – Egypte), Srdjan Vuksanovic (Serbian, Dinamo Astrakhan – Russia)
Left: Császár György, Kiss Szabolcs (to become youth coach), Práczky Károly, Tatár Roland, Stefan Zivojnovic (Serbian, Galatasaray – Turkey)
Head coach: Zantleitner Tamás.
Round 1 programme
Tuesday, September 27:
FTC PQS Waterpolo vs. UVSE – 19.00
BVSC-Zugló vs. Kaposvári VK – 20.30
RacioNet-Honvéd vs. Pannergy-Miskolci VLC
Wednesday, September 28:
ZF-Eger vs. EBP Tatabánya – 19.00
E.ON ob I. Group A
Additions: Ugo Crousillat (French, CN Marseille – France), Kardos Gergely (Honvéd), Andrija Prlainovic (Serbian, Pro Recco – Italy), Szatmári Kristóf (UVSE)
Left: Decker Attila (Honvéd), Józsa Ottó (Pécs) Madaras Norbert, Varga Dániel (mindkettő FTC), Stefan Mitrovic (Serbian, FTC)
Head coach: Cseh Sándor.
Additions: Slobodan Nikic (Serbian, Galatasaray – Turkey), Lukas Seman (Slovakian, Szeged), Zalánki Gergő (Eger)
Left: Decker Ádám (Eger), Kevin Graham (Canada)
Head coach: Vincze Balázs.
Additions: Ivan Basara (Serbian, Pécs), Illés Sándor (Honvéd), Molnár Dávid (France), Nagy Márton (Szentes), Milos Vukicevic (Serbian, Australia)
Left: Aljosa Kunac (Croatian, retired), Lukas Seman (Slovakian, OSC), Varga II Zsolt (Kaposvár)
Head coach: Varga Péter.
Additions: Babay Árpád (Debrecen), Jesse Koopman (Dutch, CN Sabadell – Spain), Marnitz Gergely (FTC), Alekszander Njegovan (Serbian, Miskolc)
Left: Adria Delgado (Brazilian, Digi-Oradea – Romania), Gyárfás Tamás (Honvéd), Jovan Saric (Montenegro), Várnai Kristóf (BVSC)
Head coach: Földi László.
Additions: Lukas Durik (Slovakian, Sant Adreu – Spain), Somlai Tamás (Miskolc), Tomasso Bussilachi (Italian, Como – Italy), Tóth Péter (Pécs)
Left: Halek Márton, Kincses Attila (both Miskolc), Hoppál Gergely (Tatabánya), Pataki Gergely (Kaposvár)
Head coach: Komlósi Péter.
Additions: György Dávid (Honvéd), Kiss Kristóf Szeif (UVSE), Sebastiaan van Mill, Lars Reuten (Dutch, Rubi – Spain), Takács János (Miskolc)
Left: Hegedűs Bence (Kaposvár), Lukács Ábel, Lukács Dorián (Miskolc), Nagy Márton (Szeged), Weszelovszky László, Igor Lazovic, Radovan Latinovic, Luka Sekulic
Head coach: Pellei Csaba.
Additions: Drasko Gogov (Serbian, Partizan Belgrade), Józsa Ottó (Szolnok), Kolozsi Marcell (FTC), Safrankó Donát.
Left: Ivan Basara (Serbian, Szeged), De Blasio Domenico (retired), Kósik Soma (Miskolc)
Head coach: Lukács Gergely.
Addition: Holló Tibor (OB I/B)
Left: Miklós Levente (Miskolc), Boros Tamás (Lille – France), Szabó Balázs (OSC)
Head coach: Horváth János.
Round 1 programme
Tuesday, September 27:
ContiTech-Szeged vs. Diapolo–Melalcom-Szentes – 17.00
Szolnoki Dózsa-Közép vs. KSI SI – 18.00
A-Híd-OSC-Újbuda vs. PVSK Mecsek-Füszért – 19.30
Wednesday, September 28:
VasasPlaket vs. Debreceni VSE – 19.30
Thanks to waterpolo.hu.
N.b.: time mentioned is local time.