Merewether Olympian Richie Campbell buoyant over London prospects

AUSTRALIAN water polo linchpin predicted the Sharks would be a stronger all-round unit in London than they were at Beijing after confirmation of the 13-man Olympics squad yesterday.

Campbell, from Merewether, was a rookie in Beijing when Australia finished eighth.

The 24-year-old centre-back is now a veteran of more than 140 international appearances and should be at the peak of his powers in London.

Asked if Australia were better equipped to win a medal than they were four years ago, Campbell replied: ‘‘Definitely.’’

Campbell’s positive outlook was mirrored by national coach John Fox, who believes his squad have the perfect mix of youth and experience.

‘‘This Olympic team will be the best prepared of any team to have had the distinction of representing our country,” said Fox, who coached Australia in 2008 and also competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

The Sharks return from Italy today, where they have been competing in the Cosenza Trophy.

On Sunday night they scored a gritty 7-5 win against Canada, which followed a 10-6 victory over Kazakhstan, losses to world champions Italy, Montenegro and a draw against Greece.

That left Australia in fifth place.

They return to Europe for the Vodafone Cup in Budapest (July 15 to 17), then head to London for their Olympic-opening clash with Italy on July 29.

‘‘We have had some disappointing results, but our game-play has been there,’’ Campbell said.

‘‘Our preparation has been the best we could have.

‘‘It’s just been a bit of execution in some of the games we’ve played.

‘‘But it’s all a good learning curve and, come London, absolutely anything can happen. We’re matching it with the best teams in the world.

‘‘We’re fully confident and 100 per cent prepared for London.’’

Campbell said it was a ‘‘weird feeling’’ getting chosen for his second Olympics.

‘‘It felt a lot different, actually,’’ he said.

‘‘In Beijing, I was excited and relieved to get selected, but didn’t know what to expect. Now I just want to get there and start playing.’’

Fox said Campbell would be an influential figure in London.

‘‘Richie was part of our team in Beijing and has progressed his game every year to the point where he is now one of the first players picked,” Fox said.

‘‘He has worked extremely hard to get to this point and I know he will play a major part in our success in London.

‘‘He is a very versatile player who plays his part at both ends of the pool and is equally adept in attack and defence.’’

Australia’s team includes debutant Aidan Roach, the son of rugby league legend Steve Roach, and will be captained by Sam McGregor.

Veterans Gavin Woods and Thomas Whalan will be competing at their fourth Olympics.

Roach, 21, has played more than 40 times for Australia and described his selection as ‘‘half a dream’’ come true.

‘‘I have always dreamt of playing the best in world on the world’s biggest stage,’’ he said. ‘‘However the other half is actually winning the biggest tournament in our sport and I think most of the boys are the same.’’

Sharks: Sam McGregor (c), Jamie Beadsworth, Richie Campbell, James Clark, Tim Cleland, Johnno Cotterill, Joel Dennerley, Rhys Howden, Billy Miller, Aidan Roach, Thomas Whalan, Gavin Woods, Aaron Younger.

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