Debbie Watson is arguably the finest women’s water polo player that Australia has produced. Worldwide, she is the only female water polo player to have won gold at World Cup, World Championship and Olympic level.
Watson’s career spanned 17 years, becoming a member of the national water polo team in 1983. She captained Australia from 1991 to 1995 and was voted the best player in the world in 1993. Watson led Australia to a string of World Cup and World Championship victories including the 1984 and 1995 World Cups and the 1986 World Championships. She was also a part of the winning team at international tournaments in Italy, Holland, Hungary and the USA.
In 1995 Watson retired from international competition having achieved far beyond all of her original goals, but continued promoting women’s water polo for inclusion in the Olympic Games. In 1998, for the first time in history, women’s water polo was added to the Olympic program and was set to debut at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Not only was Watson instrumental in the inclusion of women’s water polo but she was inspired by its inclusion and returned to the pool after a three year absence.
Watson worked hard and successfully regained selection on the national team. She played a major role in the crucial matches and became a part of history when Australia won and became the first Olympic Games water polo gold medallist.
Watson retired from playing at national level after the Games, however she is still very involved in the sport. She introduced the annual ‘Debbie Watson Scholarship’ for the New South Wales Institute of Sport “U/21 player who has the potential to play for Australia”. Watson is the NSW Institute of Sport Senior Development Coach and recently toured with the Australian team in Europe as the Australian Assistant Water Polo Coach. Watson has also commentated at the 1998 World Championships and hopes to do more.
In 2001, Watson was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to sport as a gold medallist at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.