Published: Dec 13, 2012 01:18:30 PM Updated: Dec 13, 2012 05:06:59 PM
Olympic champion Croatia has named eight members of its London 2012 gold medal winning men’s water polo team in its provisional squad for the one off blockbuster test match against the Aussie Sharks at the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in Perth next month.
Croatia, who will be led by national hero Maro Jokovic – the 203cm man-mountain that scored three stunning left handed goals in Croatia’s 8-6 Olympic final victory over Italy, will square off against an Australian men’s side that includes players from their own seventh placed Olympic team at Challenge Stadium Outdoor Pool on Saturday 19 January at 3.30pm.
Aussie Sharks star Rhys Howden, a dual Olympian who scored ten goals in London, said he was not daunted by the strength of the Croatian squad but rather saw it as an opportunity for the young Australians – particularly youngsters like his centre-forward brother BJ Howden and left hander Dan Young.
“There are eight players from their team that won gold in London including Maro Jokovic and Sandro Sukno who scored 14 goals in London, and is only 22 and one of the best players in the world,” Howden said.
“But I see this as an opportunity for us to continue to improve and especially for some of the younger Australian players who have been named to show what they’ve got against a top European team.
“We showed in London that we’re not that far off the mark at all in the big games – we led Serbia, who won the bronze, and Hungary and were pretty close to Italy, who got silver. This is a chance to play another top team.”
While the Croatian side is chock full of Olympic champions they have also looked to the future by naming 18-year-old prodigy Luka Bukic, who starred at the recent FINA World Youth Championships in Perth and whose father Perica Bukic won Olympic gold for Yugoslavia at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games.
The Australian women’s side, the Aussie Stingers, have also selected members of their bronze medal winning London Olympic team, headed by dual Olympic medallist Bronwen Knox and Western Australian star Glencora Ralph.
The Stingers will play China, who have yet to name their squad, but given Australia beat the Asian champions 20-18 in a thrilling quarterfinal penalty shootout in London, they will be determined to send a strong team to Perth for some Olympic revenge.
Australia will play China on Friday 18 January at 8.45pm.
Provisional water polo squads for the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series (2012 Olympians in bold)
MEN – Australia v Croatia – Saturday 19 January from 3:30pm
Croatia: Josip Pavic, Marko Bijac, Niksa Dobud, Fran Paskvalin, Ivan Krapic, Andro Buslje, Ivan Buljubasic, Kristijan Milakovic, Sandro Sukno, Petar Muslim, Pavo Markovic, Luka Bukic, Maro Jokovic, Paulo Obradovic, Andelo Setka
The BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series is proudly supported by naming rights sponsor BHP Billiton and the Western Australian State Government through Eventscorp and Royalties for Regions.