Water Polo stars set to impress
26 April 2012
A host of Olympic hopefuls will be out to strengthen their London selection credentials at the national water polo league finals starting in Sydney today.
In a final outing in Australia before heading overseas to contest the London test event and FINA World League preliminaries, 27 Olympic aspirants are among those battling to claim 2012 league titles for their clubs.
Among them are Australian men's captain Sam McGregor, triple Olympian Thomas Whalan and stepsisters Kate Gynther and Mel Rippon, both targeting a third Games.
Gynther and Rippon's Brisbane Barracudas are the three-time defending champions in the women's event while Beijing Olympian Jamie Beadsworth will be hoping to lead the Fremantle Mariners to back-to-back titles.
Australian men’s water polo head coach John Fox has also announced a squad of 14 to contest the FINA World League Preliminaries which will be held in China on May 3 and Japan on May 8.
The tournament, which acts as qualifying for the FINA World League Finals in Kazakhstan on June 12, is one of the last opportunities players have to press for selection ahead of the London Olympic team announcement on June 22.
Headlining the list of players will be captain Sam McGregor, triple Olympians Gavin Woods and Thomas Whalan and Beijing representatives Riche Campbell, Anthony Martin, Rhys Howden and Jamie Beadsworth. To read Rhys Howden's diary about the journey to London click here>>>
Fox, who is adamant his group of players is one of the finest assembled for an Olympic Games, said the 14 players selected were very much a part of the core group for London.
“These players selected are very much in contention for the final 13 at the Olympics and we are expecting great things from them in China and Japan,” Fox said.
“In saying that though, by no means are they guaranteed of their places.
“We’re in a position where we’ve still got a squad of 18 and we need to narrow that down by six for the Olympics.
“So every game and tournament we play is a selection trial, including the national league finals that are being held in Sydney this week.”
Fox is set to cull the squad by three after the preliminaries, a task that is proving to be quite difficult for the Canberra based mentor.
“Given the depth of our playing group the task of making these selections is very difficult and of course very hard, so every decision is vital,” Fox said.
“Already we’ve made the decision to travelling with just two keepers and you can consider them as being our number one and two at this stage.
“Then you’ve got the three overseas guys who are yet to come back, Aaron Younger, Aidan Roach and Rob Maitland, who have not been considered for this tour due to European club commitments.
“If you add it all together it makes for some really interesting and stressful times.”
The Aussie Sharks, who will face China, Japan and Kazakhstan, will leave for Shanghai on Monday April 30 and will return to Australia on May 13 before going into camp on the Gold Coast.
Australian Sharks team:
Joel Dennerley (NSW), James Clark (NSW), Jamie Beadsworth (WA), Mitch Baird (NSW), Gavin Woods (NSW), Richie Campbell (NSW), Tim Cleland (WA), Anthony Martin (Qld), Johnno Cotterill (NSW), Rhys Howden (QLD), Billy Miller (Qld), Samuele Avallone (NSW), Sam McGregor © (VIC ), Thomas Whalan (NSW). Head Coach: John Fox. Assistant Coach: Paul Oberman.
Tournaments: FINA World League Preliminaries, Shanghai, China (May 3-5) and Chiba, Japan (8-10)
AAP and Australian Water Polo Inc