Gold Coast player Leah Lawrence in the women's final against QUT at the Byron Bay Fast Fives water polo tournament last year. The competition is back on this weekend.
Gold Coast player Leah Lawrence in the women's final against QUT at the Byron Bay Fast Fives water polo tournament last year. The competition is back on this weekend. Mitchell Craig

Pooling talent at Byron fast fives

AN INJECTION of Alstonville talent will boost host team Byron Bay at the 29th annual Fast Fives water polo tournament this weekend.

Byron Bay will be without key shooter Taylor Van Essen but have added Queensland junior representative Ben Rupnik and Henry Danaher.

Japanese livewire Keita Kujiura will take his place in the team along with competition regulars Aidan Lamb, Daniel Lamb and Brendan Irwin.

Irwin doubles as the event organiser with 16 teams set to take part in the two-day competition at the Byron Bay swimming pool.

"Combining with Alstonville strengthens us a bit and the guys coming in are very handy,” Irwin said.

"Taylor is usually one of our better players but Keita has really come on in the past two seasons.

"He's strong across the pool and a lot of the local teams are finding it difficult to mark him.

"It's a pretty competitive tournament to get into and we filled it over a month ago now.

"We always have a good time playing against some new competition.

"Alstonville travels a bit but it hasn't been something we've done much over the past few years.

"This is one of only a handful of times a year where we play anyone outside our Far North Coast competition.”

Gold Coast is expected to do well across the men and women's competition while teams from Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast are also coming.

Newcastle comes from a strong competition and should perform well in the five-a-side format with no offside or restarts and play continuing from the goalkeeper's end after a goal.

A returning group of female players from New Caledonia has helped increase the women's competition to six teams.

Queensland University of Technology won both divisions last year while the 2017 men's champions was made up of players who represented Australia in the early 2000s.

"There has always been a really strong calibre of players turn out and that includes current national league players and past Olympians,” Irwin said.

"It helps give our club and the sport in the region some decent exposure.”

Games start at 9.40am tomorrow and at 9am Sunday with the finals expected about 1pm.

Spectators are welcome both days.