Aussie Stingers beat Canada in water polo

Murray Wenzel and Phil BlancheAAP
Australia's women have opened their Tokyo water polo campaign with an 8-5 win over Canada.
Camera IconAustralia's women have opened their Tokyo water polo campaign with an 8-5 win over Canada. Credit: AAP

Three goals to Bronte Halligan and a goalkeeping masterclass from Lea Yanitsas has helped Australia to a comfortable 8-5 over Canada in women's water polo action in Tokyo.

Seeking a fourth Olympic medal and second gold after their memorable Sydney 2000 triumph, the Stingers led all game thanks to regular goals and Yanitsas's (13-of-18) 72 per cent save rate.

Canada worked back to 4-3 in the second quarter before Rowie Webster's penalty shot skipped off the surface and hit the upright in what could have proved a turning point.

But Australia held their nerve, Zoe Arancini neatly lobbing the Canadian keeper Claire Wright (10 saves from 18 shots) to regain a two-goal buffer they would never relinquish.

"Yes, I think so (a dream); it was everything I could have wished for," Halligan, the daughter of former rugby league great Daryl, said of her hat-trick on Olympic debut.

"That was huge ... surprisingly I wasn't nervous, we haven't played for so long. (But) I know how to play, everyone does, and that's why we're here."

The Stingers have finished first, fourth, third, third and sixth since women's water polo was introduced, with the United States emerging as the clear super power after Australia pipped them for gold in Sydney.

The United States began their Tokyo campaign with a 25-4 flogging of Japan but Australia beat them in their most-recent competitive fixtures in January 2020 to end a 69-game winning streak.

That came after the Stingers had opted to become "amateur professional athletes", according to Webster, and drop their outside work commitments in the lead-up to the Games.

"It's been a long 16 months since our last international game," dual bronze medallist Bronwen Knox said.

"I was almost forced into retirement at one stage. It's a tough slog to continue to be an athlete. I've had two-and-a-half years off work now.

"To support myself financially is extremely difficult. I've obviously got the support of Water Polo Australia and all my support networks back home.

"To get a win is a fantastic start to our campaign; we definitely progressed throughout the game and got more comfortable in there."

They next face the Netherlands on Monday, while Australia's men - known as the Sharks - begin their campaign against Montenegro on Sunday.

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