Deemed leadership material
WATER POLO: Just a few weeks ago, Billy Miller tipped the Australians to be the dark horses of the 2012 Olympic water polo competition.
But with a string of good performances at the Vodafone Cup in Hungary this week, the Sharks might have just blown their cover.
The John Fox-coached side won silver when it lost to Hungary 8-4 in the final on Tuesday, but it was a win over defending world champion Italy and a draw with highly ranked Spain that had the water polo world on notice.
Both Italy and Spain are in Australia's European-stacked group in London along with Greece, Kazakhstan and Croatia.
Despite being rested in the first two matches of the tournament, Mooloolaba-product Miller has been earmarked as a crucial member of the Australian team in both a playing and leadership capacity.
Fox said of the Italy match: "This was a well-fought, tough win by the boys.
"It was an all-round team effort and gives us plenty of momentum leading into London.
"We play Italy in our first match at the Olympics, so it was good to get a victory over them after some narrow defeats in recent weeks."
Of Miller's selection in the team, Fox said the gutsy 24-year-old had long been a a contender for a London berth, but his placement in the team's leadership group had surprised even Miller himself.
"He has been on the radar to make these Olympics since 2008 and has progressed his game every year, to the point where he is a very important part of our squad," Fox said.
"He has worked extremely hard to get to this point and I know he will play a major part in our success in London.
"Billy is a natural leader and his tenaciousness to push his team- mates is also important for us as a squad."
The speed of Miller's rise to the upper echelon of Australian water polo might have surprised some people, but not those closest to him.
The Sunshine Coast Grammar old boy began playing the sport at the late age of 14, before moving through the state and national junior ranks to become a member of the Australian senior men's squad after the Beijing Olympics.
His father, Steve, said it was a credit to Billy how hard he had worked throughout his career to reach the point where he stood today.
"Billy has always been very committed with his water polo - he loves the sport and he always has from the moment he started playing," Steve Miller said.
"He was always selected in Queensland and Australian teams and basically played in every Australia team in each age group, but it was the year after Beijing when he broke into the Australian men's team.
"As soon as he finished school, he moved to Brisbane and since then he has done his two or three sessions every day as well as holding down two jobs."
Mr Miller said the whole family would be heading to the Games, except for younger brother and Northcliffe ironman Mitch.
"Mitch would have loved to have been coming over with us, but unfortunately he broke his rib in last year's Nutri-Grain series and he has to stay home and train for the trials," Mr Miller said.
"It is a really big thing for Billy to be competing at an Olympics. It has been his dream.
"He worked hard at it and now he is realising it."
Club: Brisbane Barracudas
TV schedule (AEST): July 29, 11.10pm Australia v Italy; July 31, 11.10pm, Australia v Kazakhstan; August 2, 7pm, Australia v Spain; August 4, 7pm, Australia v Croatia; August 6, 7pm, Australia v v Greece