Sharks team announced by AOC for London 2012
The words ‘youth and experience’ have never been better used than to describe the men’s water polo team today selected by the Australian Olympic Committee.
Gavin Woods is the most senior member of the team at 34 years of age and London will be his fourth Olympic Games – as it will be for teammate Thomas Whalan. At the other end of the spectrum, there is 20-year-old Aaron Younger, one of seven Olympic debutants on the team.
Leading the team will be captain Sam McGregor, keen to see the Aussie Sharks vie for a medal after finishing 9th in Athens and 8th in Beijing.
“I feel very lucky to be able to attend my third Olympics,” 27-year-old McGregor said.
"It is an amazing honour to lead this incredible group of men into battle for the ultimate prize in our sport, an Olympic gold medal. Our goal in London is to just stick to executing our game plan.”
That game plan will be put in place by head coach John Fox, who is happy with his team’s progression with just over a month to go until London.
"This Olympic team will be the best prepared of any team to have had the distinction of representing our country,” said Fox, who coached the team in 2008 and also competed himself in 1988 and 1992.
"The final composition of the team contains a balanced mix of experience along with youthfulness.
"The final cut proved to be the hardest when trimming the squad from 15 to a team of 13 players. The difficult decision to omit Rob Maitland and Anthony Martin was a painful process but made in view of the outstanding performances of other players.
Fox paid tribute to Maitland and Martin for their service over the years.
“Rob has been a stalwart for Australian national teams throughout the last seven years,” Fox said.
“His hardness in the water has been a feature of his game in matching it up with more physical and stronger teams.
“Anthony can consider himself unlucky that he has been forced out of the team through the performances of other players vying for the same position. Anthony has been a constant member of the national squad since 2007 and will certainly continue to be in the mix for future national teams beyond 2012.”
One of the young debutants who will be out to prove his worth in the pool is 21-year-old Aidan Roach.
The son of rugby league personality Steve “Blocker” Roach, the young Sydneysider has little over 40 caps with the national team but his performances in 2012 ensured he was picked in the 13-man side.
Scoring in the final match against the USA in Australia's first series of 2012, Roach did not play for the senior national team again until the World League Finals but there he showed his star potential, scoring five goals in the tournament, including three in Australia's 13-6 win over Brazil.
“It is definitely half a dream come true,” Roach said of his selection. “I have always dreamt of playing the best in world on the world’s biggest stage. However the other half is actually winning the biggest tournament in our sport and I think most of the boys are the same. Now we have to focus on our main goal of achieving our dreams.”
Roach and his teammates certainly have the tournament of their lives ahead of them. Competition kicks off at the Water Polo Arena in Olympic Park on Day 2 of the Games with Australia facing Italy. They will then see out the rest of the preliminary matches where they will meet Greece, Kazakhstan, Spain and Croatia as they push for a finals berth.
The full draw and match schedule can be seen here.
The men’s water polo section of the 2012 Australian Olympic Team:
Goalkeepers: Joel Dennerley (NSW, 1987), James Clark (NSW, 1991)
Field Players: Jamie Beadsworth (WA, 1985), Richie Campbell (NSW, 1987), Tim Cleland (WA, 1984), Johnno Cotterill (NSW, 1987), Rhys Howden (Qld, 1987), Billy Miller (Qld, 1988), Sam McGregor © (Vic, 1984), Aidan Roach (NSW, 1990), Thomas Whalan (NSW, 1980), Gavin Woods (NSW, 1978), Aaron Younger (WA, 1991)
Head Coach: John Fox
Assistant Coaches: Paul Oberman, Frank Otto
Team Manager: Jon Harmer
Support Staff: Ian Gard (physio) Andrew Yanitsas (video & coding), Jonah Oliver (psych)
**Foxtel will show 51 games in full - 44 hours of LIVE coverage
All Australian men's and women's preliminary games shown in full (more details to follow in coming days)