Australian women's national water polo head coach Greg McFadden has announced the 17 players that will continue final preparations for this year's London Olympic Games, dropping two players from the group that began the Olympic campaign last year.
The squad will begin a camp at the AIS in Canberra on February 20 that will also include five Test matches against Great Britain and contains five members of Australia's bronze medal winning team from the 2008 Olympics including dual Olympians Kate Gynther and Mel Rippon.
Also selected were five players from the team that finished third at last year's FINA Junior World Championships - Kelsey Wakefield, Ashleigh Southern, Isobel Bishop, Zoe Arancini and Hannah Buckling.
The two unlucky players left out of the group were 2004 and 2008 Olympian Rebecca Rippon and rising goalkeeping star Lea Barta.
McFadden said making the cuts was very hard but the squad had been given a number of opportunities in both camp and tournament situations to stake their claims.
"In October when we started our preparation for London with a squad of 19 we had always planned to minimise the squad at the end of January," McFadden said.
"In the last six weeks which incorporated the training camps and Test series' with Canada and the USA, plus the Water Polo Pan Pacs, the squad lost just one game from the 16 we played.
"During this period we mixed the team up regularly looking for the best combinations and our performances made selection of this squad extremely difficult."
The experienced coach paid tribute to Rippon, who played more than 250 games for Australia and won a bronze medal in Beijing four years ago.
Stalwart Rebecca Rippon was an unfortunate casualty of the squad cuts
"Unfortunately for Rebecca Rippon and Lea Barta they are the first two casualties of this campaign," McFadden said.
"Both players have been outstanding team members during this period and in Bec's case has been an outstanding contributor to the history of Australian women's water polo.
"She has played 265 games for Australia, played a major role in the team winning the 2006 World Cup and 2012 Pan Pacific Championships, won the silver medal in the 2007 FINA World Championships and who could forget her having the courage to take the shot to score the goal that forced the game into extra time in the bronze medal match at Beijing that enabled us to win in a penalty shoot out.
"Lea is at the other end of her international career and I'm sure will play a major role in the next Olympic cycle."
McFadden believes the remaining players have the ability and make up to go all the way to the top of the podium in London.
"We believe this squad is going to give us a great chance of winning the gold medal (in London) and we have strength and depth in every position," he said.
"What is extremely pleasing is that the five Junior World Championships bronze medallists Kelsey, Isobel, Zoe, Hannah and Ashleigh have stepped up at the senior level and are still in the squad pushing their senior teammates.
"The final Olympic team selection is going to be extremely difficult if they continue to improve, which I expect them to do.
"That will in turn push their teammates to improve which we need to do to be a serious medal contender."
The squad will now stay together through a number of camps and tournaments including the FINA World League in May and June before the final 13 players for the London Olympics will announced on June 12.
Aussie Stingers final London Olympic Games train on squad
Goalkeepers: Alicia McCormack (1983, NSW), Victoria Brown (1985, VIC), Kelsey Wakefield (1991, QLD)
Field Players: Bronwen Knox (QLD, 86), Kate Gynther (QLD, 82), Glencora Ralph (WA, 88), Ashleigh Southern (QLD, 92), Nicola Zagame (NSW, 90), Jane Moran (QLD, 85), Holly Lincoln Smith (NSW, 90), Rowena Webster (VIC, 87), Gemma Beadsworth (WA, 87), Melissa Rippon (QLD, 80), Sophie Smith (QLD, 86), Isobel Bishop (1991, SA), Zoe Arancini (1991, WA), Hannah Buckling (NSW 1992)
Head Coach: Greg McFadden Assistant Coaches: Ryan Moar, Dalibor Maslan Team Manager: Jennifer Liessmann (for upcoming AIS camp) Support Staff: Andrea Mosler (Physio), Kirsten Peterson (Psychologist)
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