Future Stingers on show as road to Rio begins at Institute Challenge
Australia’s best female water polo players will descend on the nation’s capital for the annual Institute Challenge to be held at the AIS, Canberra from December 16-20.
Following on from the bronze medal success of the Aussie Stingers at the London Olympics, this year’s tournament will expose Australia’s future stars as they aim to cement their place ahead of next year’s FINA World Championships.
Teams from the five State Institutes and Academies – Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and a combined Victorian and South Australian outfit – will contest the event, with each state eager to showcase their pride.
Traditionally the Queensland Academy of Sport and the New South Wales Institute of Sport have been the front-runners in the competition’s seven-year history with the two states sharing the spoils at four and three wins each.
This year will see a more even playing field with no London Olympians in action and national head coach Greg McFadden said it will be interesting to see who has maintained their training during the Olympic break and who is determined to prove their value to the National program.
“This year is pretty much the opposite from last year as we are in the first year of the Olympic cycle and we get to see who has been working hard while the Olympic girls have been on their break,” McFadden said.
“So I’m looking forward to seeing where the girls are in their fitness and physical shape and it will be good to see where we stand talent wise heading into Rio 2016.
“From the NTC Challenge we will pick a squad of 15, including our Olympic girls, to represent Australia against China (at the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in Perth), and that will give us a platform for the World Championships in 2013.
“History shows that those players who make the world championships in the first year of the Olympic cycle have a great record of making the Olympics three years later, so it is important that these girls show how good they are.”
The respective teams include four members from the wider 19-person Olympic squad, plus 10 players from the recent FINA World Youth Championships in Perth.
McFadden said it was important that the four girls cut from the Olympic squad – Hannah Buckling, Zoe Arancini, Kelsey Wakefield and Lea Barta – continued to demonstrate their ambition to play at the highest level, while also saying it was ideal that the youth girls had the opportunity to enhance their development.
“I’m hoping those girls (Hannah, Zoe, Kelsey and Lea) show that they are the best players in Australia at the tournament and hopefully stand up and indicate that they want to be picked for the world championships next year,” he said.
“(As for) the Australian Youth girls, there’s certainly some talent from the group that played in Perth. Hopefully they can prove that they have learnt from the experience at the World Youth Championships and are prepared to keep learning.”
NSWIS and the combined Victorian Institute of Sport/South Australian Sport Institute team begin proceedings at 4.30pm on Sunday, with three time defending champions QAS opening their account against the Western Australian Institute of Sport at 6pm.
New South Wales Institute of Sport: Lea Barta, Alicia Brightwell, Gabby Wikman, Jess Brooks, Hannah Buckling, Georgia Clarke, Keesja Gofers, Shannan Martin, Maddi Schmid, Sarah Harris, Morgan Baxter, Pascalle Casey, Stephanie Calaizis. Coach: Ryan Moar
Queensland Academy of Sport: Kelsey Wakefield, Bronte Colenso, Emily Benson, Elle Armit, Ellie Bowden, Nanda Stoltz, Laura Malcolm, Madeline Coburn, Bridget O’Connor, Stephanie Thomas, Hannah Robinson, Olivia King, Emma Jones. Coach: Aleks Osadchuk
Victorian Institute of Sport/South Australian Sport Institute: Victoria Risby, Jessica Martin, Chloe Barr, Belinda Symons, Lucinda Swan, Chelsea Allen, Emily Carr, Genevieve Venosta, Jade Hanson, Maddie Steere, Maddie Morrison, Emily McGowan, Rebecca Andrews. Coach: Eddie Denis
Western Australian Institute of Sport: Lilian Hedges, Lenke Dauda-Board, Madeleine Quinn, Monique Rebelo, Cathryn Earl, Eliesha Browne, Mercedes Ralph, Zoe Arancini, Jessica Zimmerman, Kassia Ralston, Tess Hosking. Coach: Peter Szilagyi
Sunday 16th December
4.30pm VIS/SASI v NSWIS
6.00pm WAIS v QAS
Monday 17th December
4.30pm VIS/SASI v QAS
6.00pm NSWIS v WAIS
Tuesday 18th December
4.30pm VIS/SASI v WAIS
6.00pm NSWIS v QAS
Wednesday 19th December
4.30pm 1 v 4
6.00pm 2 v 3
Thursday 20th December
9.30am Bronze Medal Game
11.00am Gold Medal Game