Hunter Hurricanes co-captain and goalkeeper Emily Grellman remembers the exact moment when she fell in love with playing water polo.
It was around a decade ago playing for Tamworth at the under-14 state championships, scoring and saving back-to-back goals in the penalty shootout to claim an unexpected title.
"I've been to Europe with an Australian junior team before, but that's still my favourite moment," Grellman, now 24, said.
"It was kind of the moment I fell in love with it all. It was such a simple moment, but it was like 'look what we did'."
Grellman, who grew up in Wee Waa and went to boarding school in Tamworth before linking with the Hurricanes, feels like that experience and others in rural NSW have helped shape her leadership style with this year's senior Hunter squad.
A new-look Hurricanes have lost all four of their opening Sydney Super League matches, conceding 62 goals, but radiographer Grellman has embraced the skipper's role alongside Belle Humby and reckons "team morale" is key with such a young playing group.
"It's been a rough start to the season, but with COVID we lost six or seven senior players," she said.
"So it turned out I'd played the the most caps out of anyone, but it was special for me [to be named co-captain].
"I'm big on team morale and because we started off with so many juniors we knew it was going to be a hard season.
"The scorelines have been brutal but the aim is to enjoy it, learn from it and being in this position I've got a bit more control to try and push that."
With the Australian women's Olympic squad training on the Sunshine Coast, Grellman said players in all teams have been forced to "step up" in the state competition ahead of nationals in Brisbane from March 31.
"It's a really good entry tournament," she said.
The Hurricanes take on the SNB Breakers at Ashfield on Saturday (12pm).
In the men's league Hunter, who cracked their first win of the campaign at home last weekend, have the bye.
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