A Rob Maitland goal 22 seconds from time secured a bronze medal for Australia at the men’s water polo FINA World League Super Finals here last night.
Australia’s Olympic stocks rose another notch when the Aussie Sharks gained their second consecutive World League bronze medal in three straight bronze-medal-final appearances.
The Sharks came from 5-3 down at halftime to beat Beijing medal contender Montenegro 8-7 on the final day of the Super Finals.
The medal backs up last year’s bronze gained against Germany in Berlin and gives Australia its third bronze medal on the world stage following the first in the 1993 World Cup.
Head coach John Fox said he was pleased with the result against such a strong opponent but added that the team was “not over-exuberant” with the medal, stating “there’s still a long way to go to be a medal chance in Beijing”.
Serbia retained its crown with a 7-3 margin over the United States of America in the gold-medal final while Spain pipped Canada 10-9 for fifth and Italy defeated Greece 11-7 for seventh spot.
The Sharks battled the referees with a heavy foul count against, trailing 3-2 and 5-3 at the first two breaks.
The team rebounded in the third period, keeping Montenegro scoreless to level at 5-all and then take the game with “every guy playing with a lot of heart”, according to Fox.
Australia netted four from seven on extra while Montenegro managed just five from 11 chances.
The Australian men’s team for Beijing will be announced in the coming weeks.
Men’s FINA World League Super Finals, Genoa, Italy:
Day 7: Play-offs: For 7th & 8th, Italy 11 Greece 7; for 5th & 6th, Spain 10 Canada 9; for 3rd & 4th, Australia 8 (P Figlioli 2, T Franklin, R Maitland, A Martin, T Neesham, T Whalan, G Woods) Montenegro 7; for 1st & 2nd, Serbia 7 USA 3.
Final placings: Serbia, USA, Australia, Montenegro, Spain, Canada, Italy, Greece, China, Egypt.