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Sydney University’s Nikita Cuffe and Taniele Gofers have been selected in a 16-women Australian Stingers water polo squad for a two-tournament European tour, starting next Thursday.

Cuffe and Gofers, who play for the Sydney University Lions in the Women’s National League, were members of the squad that defeated the world champion US team three-nil in a tournament in Sydney last week.

The Stingers will contest tournaments in Rome from January 29-31 and Athens from February 1-3. The Rome tournament will feature teams from Italy, Greece and The Netherlands, with the same combatants plus Russia contesting the Thetis Cup in Athens.

The team will return home on February 7 following a three-day training camp with Greece, with all players joining their national league teams for a shortened season ending on April 12.

The squad will then be trimmed with the busy pre-Olympics international program including World League matches in May and June and training and tournaments in July before departing for Beijing.

The final team selection will be made in late June after the World League Super Finals.

Australian coach Greg McFadden says the Stingers’ Olympic preparations are on track following the unbeaten series against the US.

The come from behind win over the world champions at Sutherland Leisure Centre in Sydney was Australia’s third in a series which produced two draws.

Following on from two victories over the US in America last year, it extended Australia’s unbeaten record against the world champions to seven matches.

“It tells us that we’re on track, we’re quite happy with where we are, but there are still a lot of things that we need to work on,” McFadden says. “It gives us a little bit of confidence because the Americans have dominated us over the last 18 months and it’s only just recently we started to have a few wins.

“That proves the areas that we have been working on are improving, but there’s still a lot more. There are five teams who I think can win the Olympic gold medal, it’s not just us and America.”

European tour team:

Goalkeepers: Victoria Brown (Victorian Tigers); Alicia McCormack (Cronulla Sharks).

Centre forwards/backs: Gemma Beadsworth (Fremantle Marlins); Mia Santoromito, Erin Douglass (Cronulla Sharks); Bronwen Knox (KFC Queensland Breakers); Nikita Cuffe, Taniele Gofers (Sydney University Lions).

Counter-attackers/drivers/shooters: Sophie Smith, Melissa Rippon (Brisbane Barracudas); Jenna Santoromito, Patrice O’Neill (Cronulla Sharks); Rebecca Rippon (Balmain Tigers); Sarah Mills, Amy Hetzel, Suzie Fraser (KFC Breakers).

By Graham Croker

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