Blood in the Water

Let’s be honest, after a title like that I’ve already got your interests piqued at unusually high levels, so allow me, if you will, to properly set the scene.

It’s the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games; subsequently (and somewhat ironically) nicknamed ‘The Friendly Games.’[1] Australian athletes such as Dawn Fraser, Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland and Murray Rose are slowly making the ’56 Games the most successful ever for Australia.[2]

On December 6, 1956 the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre (which may be more familiar to you now as The Westpac Centre: the training and administrative centre of Collingwood Football Club) hosted the men’s water-polo semi-final between the USSR and Hungary.[3] On the surface a men’s water polo match-up between the two nations seem incongruous and insignificant, especially in the context of rivalry, but let me assure you (and as the title indicates) this match was particularly worthy. In fact, not only is it considered the most famous and brutal water-polo game in Olympic history, but the match was never actually completed. It included numerous penalties, security escorts, and the young Hungarian forward Ervin Zádor being helped from the swimming pool with a wound to his right eye and blood streaming down his cheek.

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