Water Rats (TV series)

Water Rats is an Australian TV police procedural broadcast on the Nine Network from 1996 to 2001. The series was based on work of the men and women of the Sydney Water Police who fight crime around Sydney Harbour and surrounding locales. The show was set on and around Goat Island in Sydney Harbour.

Water Rats
Created byJohn Hugginson
Tony Morphett
StarringColin Friels
Catherine McClements
Mouche Phillips
Toni Scanlan
Steve Bisley
Peter Bensley
Aaron Pedersen
Jay Laga'aia
Theme music composerLes Gock
Song Zu
Country of originAustralia
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes177 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Hal McElroy
Ted Roberts
Production location(s)Sydney
The Rocks
Goat Island
Running time43-45 minutes
Production company(s)Southern Star Productions
Nine Films and Television
DistributorSouthern Star Worldwide Distribution Sales
Original networkNine Network
Picture format
  • 4:3 (seasons 1-3)
  • 14:9 (season 4) (Europe)
    16:9 (seasons 5-6)
Audio formatStereo
Original release12 February 1996 
7 August 2001

Water Rats premiered on 12 February 1996, and ran for six seasons and 177 episodes. Colin Friels and Catherine McClements were the original stars of the series and were instrumental in the show's early success. They both departed the show in 1999. In later seasons, Steve Bisley, Aaron Pedersen and Dee Smart became the show's main stars.

For the sixth and final season in 2001, the show concentrated more on the cops' personal lives rather than just focusing on the crimes committed. The Nine Network cancelled the show after six seasons. Executive Producer Kris Noble blamed escalating costs for the cancellation. However, Bisley and Smart had also just quit the show, and the series had already been suffering a ratings battle following the departure of Friels and McClements in 1999.

The final episode was broadcast in Australia on 7 August 2001.


Supporting cast

Recurring roles

Season summaries


Water Rats: Dead in the Water
Directed byTim Burstall
Written byTony Morphett
Release date
12 February 1996
Running time
90 mins

The first episode of Water Rats screened in Australia at 8.30 pm on Monday, 12 February 1996. It was entitled Dead in the Water and was a two-part episode. Dead in the Water introduced viewers to Detective Senior Constables Frank Holloway and Rachel Goldstein.

Along with:

  • Chief Inspector Clarke Webb
  • Senior Sergeant Jeff Hawker
  • Sergeant Helen Blakemore
  • Senior Sergeant Dave McCall
  • Senior Constable Gavin Sykes
  • Senior Constable Tommy Tavita
  • Senior Constable Fiona Cassidy
  • Senior Constable Terry Watson


  • Detective Senior Sergeant John "Knocker" Harrison (played by Peter Mochrie)
  • Detective Senior Constable Kevin Holloway (played by Jeremy Callaghan)
  • David Goldstein (played by Treffyn Koreshoff)
  • Jonathon Goldstein (played by Steven Grivies)
  • Inspector Tony Brady (played by Richard Healy)

The pilot plot concerned a divorced man, deranged over the death of his daughter, who captures a Sydney harbour ferry and holds the city to ransom.[1]

Season one

Season one ran for 26 episodes and major storylines included:

  • Jonathon Goldstein trying to deny Rachel access to their young son, David.
  • Frank's relationship with crime scene officer, Caroline Cox.
  • Helen's sexuality comes out in the open, particularly to Rachel, who seemed to be the only character who did not know Helen was gay.
  • The death and subsequent investigation of Frank's brother, Kevin.
  • Rachel's relationship with Knocker, which turned out to be a deadly one.
  • Clarke's affair and his subsequent resignation.
  • Frank being investigated by Internal Affairs on two occasions.

Season two

The second season of Water Rats ran, again, for 26 episodes and began airing on Monday, 10 February 1997. Season two also took the detectives to Melbourne, a change from Sydney harbour. It also introduced a new character, Constable Tayler Johnson, as well as a few minor ones, including:

  • Colin "Chopper" Lewis (played by Anthony Martin)
  • Senior Constable Sam Bailey (played by Kelly Dale)
  • Michael Jefferies (played by John Adam)
  • Gail Hawker (played by Anne Tenney)

Major storylines included:

  • Rachel's relationship with the well-off Michael Jefferies.
  • Jeff becomes Chief Inspector.
  • Frank once again, is investigated by I.A, but this time for a much more serious offence, murder.
  • Tayler is Helen's niece.
  • Terry is stabbed and decides to leave the Water Police.
  • Dave is speared by spear gun and cannot continue diving.
  • Jeff and his wife separate.

Season three

Season three ran for 31 episodes and premiered on Monday, 9 February 1998. A couple of episodes into the season, it was moved to Tuesday nights. Steve Bisley is also added to the opening credits for a number of episodes near the end of the season. New characters included:

  • Constable Emma Woods
  • Liz Robinson (played by Rebecca Hobbs)
  • Detective Senior Constable Jack Christey
  • Detective Sergeant Louise Bradshaw (played by Sonia Todd)
  • Terry Madigan (played by Ritchie Singer)

Major storylines included:

  • Frank getting back together (for a while) with his ex-wife Liz.
  • Rachel and tough-talking detective Jack Christey have a one-night stand.
  • Tayler is shot.
  • Rachel works with Tommy on a number of occasions, while Frank is away.
  • Frank's relationship with undercover cop Louise ends tragically when she is shot dead.
  • Helen is promoted to Senior Sergeant.

Season four

The fourth series began on Tuesday, 16 February 1999 and ran for 32 episodes. It was a series of change for Water Rats, which included both Colin Friels' and Catherine McClements' departures within 18 episodes of each other. It introduced some new and old characters such as:

  • Detective Senior Constable Michael Reilly
  • Detective Sergeant Jack Christey
  • Gillian Swain (played by Liz Burch)
  • Suzi Abromavich (played by Roxane Wilson, who also appeared in one episode in series three)
  • Detective Senior Constable Alex St Clare

Major storylines included:

  • Helen's relationship with lawyer Gillian Swain.
  • Michael Reilly, from VIP security, becomes the third detective.
  • Frank leaves the Water Police, sailing to Venezuela.
  • Jack replaces Frank and his relationship with Rachel gets off to a rocky start.
  • Jack is promoted to Detective Sergeant.
  • David is kidnapped.
  • Rachel and Jack start their relationship again.
  • Rachel is stabbed, and dies in Jack's arms.
  • Jeff and his wife get a divorce.
  • Tayler leaves the Water Police, joining Pol-Air.
  • Alex St Clare replaces Rachel.

Season five

The fifth season began airing on Tuesday, 22 February 2000, and ran for 36 episodes, the longest out of the six seasons of the show. Ratings began to fall slightly, as a result of McClements' departure the previous year. A number of regular characters also left, including Jay Laga'aia and Scott Burgess, whose character was not seen at all in series five, and his whereabouts was finally mentioned in series six. New characters included:

  • Senior Constable Matthew Quinn
  • Constable Donna Janevski
  • Sergeant Lance Rorke
  • Sophie Ferguson
  • Eva Minton (played by Mouche Phillips)

Major storylines included:

  • Tommy leaves the Water Police and goes on long-service leave.
  • Jack finds out he has an 18-year-old daughter named Sophie.
  • Mick asks Alex out on a date.
  • Gavin meets Eva.
  • Jack remembers Rachel on the one-year anniversary of her death.

Season six

The sixth and final season of Water Rats began airing on Tuesday, 6 February 2001 and ran for 26 episodes. Sometime early in the season, the timeslot was changed from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm. The Nine Network decided to cancel the show, due to escalating costs and declining ratings, and two main stars, Bisley and Smart had decided to leave the show. Notable new characters in the final season included:

Major storylines included:

  • Jack has a short relationship with Julia Goodwin.
  • Lance dies in a freak accident.
  • Sophie begins her Police training.
  • The Water Police learn that Snr. Sgt. Dave McCall has died.
  • Gavin and Eva get married, and at the end of the series, have a baby.
  • Jack is shot in the very last episode, and though not known, probably dies, as Steve Bisley was leaving the show if it did continue for another season.


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
1997 Logie Award Most Outstanding Actor Colin Friels Won
Most Outstanding Achievement in a Drama Production Water Rats Won
1998 Logie Award Most Outstanding Actor Colin Friels Nominated
Most Popular Actor Colin Friels Nominated
Most Popular Actress Catherine McClements Nominated
Most Outstanding Actress Catherine McClements Won
Most Popular Program Water Rats Nominated
Most Outstanding Drama Series Water Rats Nominated
AFI Awards Young Actor's Award Paul Pantano (for episode Romeo is Bleeding) Won
1999 Logie Awards Most Popular Actor Colin Friels Nominated
Most Outstanding Actor Colin Friels Nominated
People's Choice Award Favourite Actor in a Drama or Serial Colin Friels Won
Favourite Actress in a Drama or Serial Catherine McClements Nominated
Favourite TV Star Colin Friels Nominated
Favourite Drama or Serial Water Rats Nominated
AFI Award Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Television Drama Catherine McClements (for episode I'm Home) Nominated
Awgie Award Television - Series Peter Gawler (for episode Six Hundred Clear a Week) Won
2000 Logie Award Most Outstanding Actor in a Series Colin Friels Nominated
Most Outstanding Actor in a Series Steve Bisley Nominated
Most Outstanding Actress in a Series Catherine McClements Nominated
Most Popular Actor Colin Friels Nominated
Most Outstanding Drama Series Water Rats Nominated
2001 Awgie Award Television - Series John Banas (for episode Domino) Won
Television - Series Peter Gawler (for episode Hungry Bear Blues) Won
Logie Awards Most Outstanding Drama Series Water Rats Nominated
Most Outstanding Actor in a Series Steve Bisley Nominated

Filming locations

Water Rats was filmed on and around Goat Island in Sydney Harbour. Other locations used throughout the series were:

Fictional locations

The real Sydney Water Police headquarters was located at Pyrmont. The TV version of the Sydney Water Police headquarters was located on Goat Island, though the fictional address was 48/50 Harbour Drive, Sydney 2000. Other fictional locations throughout the series included:

  • Frank's House − The exterior was shot in The Rocks, but the interior was a set on Goat Island.
  • The Cutter Bar − A fictional pub, where the members of the Water Police liked to relax after a hard day at work (introduced in season two).
  • The Sydney Police Centre − Unlike some other police stations, the Water Police did not have their own holding cells, so offenders were taken to the SPC to be charged.
  • The Hospital
  • The Morgue − Early in the series, real morgues were used to film in. Eventually a set was built on Goat Island.
  • Rachel's house − A number of different exterior locations were used for Rachel's house, including Balmain, Birchgrove and Glebe.

Home media

Water Rats was first released on DVD in 2004 through Shock Entertainment. It was released as two parts called Series 1 and Series 2, though it was actually only season 1 in two parts. Warner Vision Australia then released the rest of the show, where DVDs labelled series 3 were actually season 2 and so on. It was announced on 7 August 2017 that Via Vision Entertainment would re-release all six seasons on DVD on 22 November 2017. Several episodes are out of broadcast order in the Via Vision collection.


Title Format No. of
Discs Region 4 (Australia) DVD special features DVD distributors
Season One DVD Series 1, Episodes 1-13 3 8 March 2004 Selected Episodes Commentaries Shock Entertainment
Season Two DVD Series 1, Episodes 14-26 3 21 February 2005 Photo Gallery Shock Entertainment
Season Three Part 1 DVD Series 2, Episodes 1-14 4 Photo gallery Warner Vision Australia
Season Three Part 2 DVD Series 2, Episodes 15-26 3 None Warner Vision Australia
Season Four Part 1 DVD Series 3, Episodes 1-17 4 None Warner Vision Australia
Season Four Part 2 DVD Series 3, Episode 18-31 4 Photo gallery Warner Vision Australia
Season Five Part 1 DVD Series 4, Episodes 1-16 4 9 September 2006 None Warner Vision Australia
Season Five Part 2 DVD Series 4, Episodes 17-32 4 9 September 2006 Photo Gallery Warner Vision Australia
Season Six Part 1 DVD Series 5, Episodes 1-21 5 28 October 2006 None Warner Vision Australia
Season Six Part 2 DVD Series 5, Episodes 22-36 4 28 October 2006 Photo Gallery Warner Vision Australia
Season Seven Part 1 DVD Series 6, Episodes 1-12 3 28 October 2006 Photo Gallery Warner Vision Australia
Season Seven Part 2 DVD Series 6, Episodes 13-26 4 28 October 2006 None Warner Vision Australia
The Complete Series 1-6 DVD All 177 Episodes 45 22 November 2017 Commentaries On Selected Episodes.

Photo Galleries

Via Vision Entertainment
Water Rats: Collection One DVD Season 01, Episodes 1-26

Season 02, Episodes 01-26

Season 03, Episodes 01-31

Season 04, Episodes 01-32

24 11 April 2018 Commentaries On Selected Episodes.

Photo Galleries

Via Vision Entertainment
Water Rats: Collection Two DVD Season 05, Episodes 01-36

Season 06, Episodes 01-26

21 5 December 2018 Photo Galleries Via Vision Entertainment

Online streaming availability

Title Format Episodes # Release date Expiry date Special features Distributors
Water Rats Season One Streaming Episodes 01-26 2019 14 February 2020 None 9Now
Water Rats Season Two Streaming Episodes 01-26 2019 14 February 2020 None 9Now
Water Rats Season Three Streaming Episodes 01-31 2019 14 February 2020 None 9Now
Water Rats Season Four Streaming Episodes 01-32 2019 14 February 2020 None 9Now
Water Rats Season Five Streaming Episodes 01-36 2019 14 February 2020 None 9Now
Water Rats Season Six Streaming Episodes 01-26 2019 14 February 2020 None 9Now


A Water Rats soundtrack was produced by Les Gock in 1999. It contained songs featured on the series, such as "Goldie's Theme" by Cathi Ogden (heard in many episodes, most notably episode 109) and "I'll Dream of You" by Hugh Wilson (heard in Frank's final episode). It also features a couple of songs sung by cast members: "Breathe" with Raelee Hill and "Let's Party" with Jay Laga'aia. The song "Breathe", was written by James Freud who also sung in the chorus.

International broadcasting

The series is currently being re-run in:


  • There was a 2003 National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra exhibition on Australian police dramas (1950–present) that featured some scripts from the show, as well as a plastic corpse used in one episode. See National Archives of Australia for details.
  • The exterior for Frank's house was filmed near the Agar Steps in The Rocks, New South Wales; however, the interior was shot on Goat Island.
  • Catherine McClements had previously worked with Colin Friels in the movie Weekend with Kate (1990), Scott Burgess in the movie Just Us (1986) and Tony Morphett (the creator of Water Rats) in the telemovie My Brother Tom (1986).
  • Season three originally contained 32 episodes; however, because of Colin Friels' illness, only 31 went to air.

See also


  1. Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p161

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