When Libby Magann pulled on the green and gold cap for the first time little could she have imagined that over a decade later she would still be suiting up for her country.
On Thursday Magann will dive in for her 11th campaign with the Australian Country side when they begin their Princess Chulabhorn Cup defence in Thailand.
Magann was selected in the side following her performance at the Australian Country Championships in Rockhampton earlier this year where, along with helping NSW Country win gold, she was named most valuable player of the tournament and in the Tournament 7.
She has been a consistent presence in the Aussie side since touring New Zealand 15 years ago.
“The only time I haven’t made it or gone away is when I had my boys – when I had retired and thought I was done,” she said.
Magann admits it is a bit different now to those early years, her role in the side morphing into more of a leadership and mentoring role. But it is one she thrives playing, conceding that mentoring the young girls coming through is “probably what keeps me going”.
“I enjoy it,” she said.
Having coached NSW Country, and other sides in the past, Magann would like to explore the coaching side of things further, but she “isn’t done (playing) yet”.
That is partly driven by an unwavering love of the game, and part the lure of new destinations to journey to.
“There’s always some new destination that pops up to tempt me, which means my retirement has never happened,” she joked.
So far she has toured to New Zealand, Hawaii, Singapore, Thailand. She also spent some time playing professionally in Hungary.
“Some of these countries I never would have gone to otherwise. Thailand wasn’t on my list but when it popped up I thought ‘why not?’,” she said.
There is also the thrill of representing your country.
“It’s awesome. This morning (Saturday) getting to the airport and getting my Australian uniform – I love it,” she said.
The Aussies will be looking to make it three-in-a-row and will be competing against teams from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Thai local team Chulabhorn Aquatic Club (CAC), who they defeated in the final last year.
“The temperature of the pool and humidity out of the pool is our biggest challenge as its over 30 degrees in the water and makes it easy to overheat,” Magann said.
The Asian teams also play a different style of water polo.
“Asian teams are generally really small girls, so they don’t match it with us physically. They are traditionally swimmers. They swim all day,” she said.
Magann will play as a utility so virtually anywhere.
“I can roll into centre forward or I can drive in or I can set the play up,” she said.
The trip will also see her reunite with a former team-mate with Mel Rippon assistant coach of the Aussie side.
“The first ever trip I went away on when I was 14 I was with Mel,” Magann recalled.
“It was a CHS tour to New Zealand for the Pan Pac Games. I remember at the time she said ‘I was quite scared of you’.”
She laughed at the irony with Rippon going on to play at three Olympic Games, winning bronze in Beijing and London.
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