HOT IMPORTS: Nikola Vavic, centre, flanked by Justin Parsons and Connor Virjee. Picture: Marina NeillTHE world championship ambitions of the Hunter’s American imports is driving the Hurricanes from wooden-spooners to a first National Water Polo League finals appearance.
Goalkeeper Justin Parsons, centre-back Connor Virjee and driver Nikola Vavic have starred in the Hurricanes’ dynamite start to 2015, which included a club-record four wins from four games on the difficult Western Australia road trip last weekend.
The run lifted Hunter to six wins from 10 matches and sparked dreams of a maiden play-off position before a double-header against second-placed Drummoyne Devils this weekend at Lambton Pool.
Parsons, 24, and Vavic and Virjee, 22, have proven key players for Hunter in the early rounds, along with former Lake Macquarie junior and Australian squad member Daniel Lawrence, who also joined the club this year.
Lawrence said the form of the American trio had given the squad belief they could make club history.
“They are a very big factor of why I think we will play finals this year,” Lawrence said. “Without them it would be very difficult.”
Parsons is from the University of California, Berkeley, while Vavic and Virjee are from fierce rivals the University of Southern California.
While all three were keen to see Australia and experience a different style of water polo, they also have higher ambitions.
HOT IMPORTS: Nikola Vavic in action. Picture: Marina Neill
Vavic is a member of the extended American squad, Parsons played for his country at junior level and Virjee has been in national training camps.
All have hopes of gaining selection in America’s squad for the world championships in Russia from July 24.
“That’s why we are out here, to keep playing and stay in shape if the opportunity comes back around,” Parsons said.
Vavic has been the most impressive of the trio and was keen to use the stint to push his claims for national selection.
“I definitely need to improve my defence and play a bit smarter down the stretch,” Vavic said. “As a team, we’re not playing four quarters.”
Drummoyne, who have five wins from six games, boast Australian team player Mitch Emery and former Aussie Shark John Hahn.
“They are going to be a quick team and we’ve got to be on our game,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence is also the women’s coach and said they would be at full strength for their matches against Drummoyne, who have one win from six games.
The men play 5pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday. The women play 3.30pm Saturday and 11.30am Sunday.
Meanwhile, Gordon Marshall has joined former Hunter Hurricanes product Nathan Power in a 16-man Australian squad to prepare for the March 30 to April 4 FINA World League Intercontinental tournament in California this month.
Marshall is vying for a position in a 13-man final team for the tournament.
HOT IMPORTS: Nikola Vavic, centre, flanked by Justin Parsons and Connor Virjee. Picture: Marina Neill