Newcastle’s Nathan Power and his Australian teammates were thumped 13-3 by host nation Hungary in the Sharks' opening game at the water polo world championships.
Australia held the world No.2 and three-time champions to 1-1 at quarter-time in front of 8000 passionate supporters in Budapest.
But the hosts led 7-3 entering the final term then scored six more unanswered goals to complete the drubbing.
Power missed last year’s Rio Olympics after cutting his hand in a fall on his way home from a team dinner while in camp in Croatia.
Australia play France in their second game on Thursday (AEST).
Italy defeated France 18-9 in the other Group B game on Tuesday (AEST).
In Group A, Canada came from four goals down to draw with Montenegro 8-8 and Brazil beat Kazakhstan 6-2.
Croatia beat the US 12-7 in Group D, and Russia beat Japan 15-8 in the late match.
Defending champions Serbia routed South Africa 21-5 to begin their campaign in Group C, while Greece almost let a three-goal lead slip against Spain before winning 8-7.
Australia’s women smashed Kazakhstan 16-4 in their opening game.