Each week between now and the beginning of the 2012 Olympic Games, AWPI's Road to London series will profile a member of the Aussie Stingers or Aussie Sharks team. This is your chance to get to know the stars of the show a little better.
Buckling in action for her National Water Polo League team Sydney University Lions
Out of the 19 players still in contention for the Aussie Stingers’ 2012 London Olympics squad, Mosman’s Hannah Buckling holds the sole tag of being the youngest member of the squad and the only player not to have played a test for Australia.
To say she is the team bolter would be a slight understatement.
But if you strip all the hype and commotion and look at the hard facts, you begin to realise why Stingers head coach Greg McFadden decided to include her in the recent train on squads.
Buckling was part of the bronze medal winning Australian team at the Junior World Championships in August this year, and was a rock in central defence for the girls, but it was what the other coaches were saying about her that gained the attention of the national selectors.
"At the junior world championships all the coaches from the other countries were asking me who the big tall blonde centre back was,” junior coach Peter Szilagyi revealed.
“They were wondering why they hadn’t seen her with the senior team after she had been so dominant at centre back.“
In a remarkable performance by Buckling, she did not have a goal scored off her the whole tour.
The Aussie Juniors played 14 games during their campaign, with the 19-year-old earning best player honours in five of those matches, an achievement that capped off a fantastic month.
“The world juniors was the most amazing experience and I loved every second of it,” Buckling said.
“The team played so well all throughout the tour and we all became such good friends.
“The experience of playing at that international level really improved my water polo, and I think the team’s as well and Peter was such a great coach and was extremely encouraging throughout the whole tour.“
With a birth on the Olympics team now firmly on the radar, Buckling is working harder than ever to make the most of the opportunity and chase her dream.
“It would mean a great deal to me to make the Olympic team at such a young age. It would be an amazing opportunity and is ultimately my goal for my water polo career and to reach that goal so early on would be a great achievement,” she said.
“I have little experience compared to most of the girls in the squad, but I am working hard to improve my game awareness and perform at the necessary level to compete on an international senior stage.”
And while you could blame some young players for getting ahead of themselves, the Sydney University student is quick to put a perspective on her sudden rise to the top.
“Without the influence of my Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers coach, Jamie Ryan, I would not have been selected into my first state team, or selected into my first Australian squad,” she said.
“He helped me fall in love with the sport and started me on the road that got me to where I am now.”
Buckling is likely to make her first appearance in Australian senior colours when the Aussie Stingers head to Montreal for the Canada Cup in December.
A spot in the team for the 2012 Water Polo Pan Pacs in Melbourne may follow, and with McFadden set to cull the squad after that tournament, a strong performance at both events could go a long way to securing her London games ticket.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images