The first to admit she bleeds maroon, dual Olympian Ash Southern has made the move across the border into Blues territory to play for the UNSW West Killer Whales as part of the Australian Waterpolo League.
Leaving behind her famed club the Brisbane Barracudas wasn’t an easy call for Southern, but as she looks to reignite her passion in the game that has given her so much, Southern is open to the next chapter in her sporting career.
As a youngster, Ash was dedicated to the sport from an early age and treasures days spent travelling two hours each way to Townsville for a game.
“Travelling all those hours with my parents and siblings was great and playing alongside my siblings was something I definitely loved and cherished at the time.
“Back in the day we listened to cd’s on the road, probably ‘So Fresh Hits of 2008’ and a bit of Bewitched as that was my first ever cd.
“I think just making great memories with friends is what is was all about and why I fell in love with the game,” she said.
Aged 23 at the Rio Olympic Games, Southern’s second Olympic campaign, she wanted to take some time to get a bit more balance into her life, that up until that point had been very focused on the Olympic Games aspirations.
“I got stuck into university after Rio pretty much full time, I’m doing marketing and business, so hopefully I’ll graduate in that this year.
“I’m still doing that while in Sydney with a little bit of working and lots of coaching which I’m really enjoying,” she said.
Coaching is something Southern has relished because it has shown the sport to her in a different light and she has been able to see juniors developing as well as give back to the sport as she continues to search for her love of the game again.
“My plan was to move to Sydney and to mix it up, get back in the pool and try to get fit. I think the sea change has really helped that.
“I really like playing for the Whales, I think we have a lot of good juniors developing. I have tried to change my role to not be as serious and just help the girls develop,” she said.
These days, Southern isn’t travelling two hours one way anymore to play games or belting out the latest So Fresh hits, she has got a few more things on her plate in a regular week.
“A well-rounded week is pretty much staying on top of my university lectures, getting a bit or work in and then hitting the gym.
“Lots of positive polo sessions getting out what I can, a couple of swim sessions and lots of time for coffee.
“Study is definitely not as enjoyable as travelling the world, it’s just one of those things I have to get done, I graduate this year so that is my main priority at the moment,” she said.
In terms of how the 25-year old’s body and mind is feeling after dedicating her life to the sport, Southern is upbeat and thankful to have a couple of new distractions in her life.
“I’m actually feeling really well. My main goal is fitness so playing lots of games will definitely help that.
“My mind is a lot better and having a bit of balance with Uni and work as well has definitely helped.
“I’m not just focusing on water polo at the moment, I am trying to be a well rounded human being at the moment.
Southern is very vocal about her pride in being born and bred in Queensland, however has been adjusting to life in the capital of New South Wales, which is also helping her rediscover her love for water polo.
“I really enjoy it, I am living in Maroubra with Leah Yanitsas, so it’s nice to live with a teammate.
“It’s really good living close to the beach, I’m there every day and enjoying the coffees as well. As a student especially it’s nice to sit along cafés by the beach and mix it up.
“I do like Pool Café in Maroubra, other than that I don’t really know names I just try to mix it up,” she said.
As an incoming player with a wealth of experience, Southern has relished the change in club during this season’s OVO Australian Waterpolo League.
“I don’t want to just come into the team and be a star player, I really enjoy playing for the girls and really enjoy the attitude, everyone is equal in the team.
“I just want to bring a bit of hard work and professionalism for the young girls to see and help the young girls achieve what they want to achieve.
“Also I am here for myself, I want to improve as well and improve my game, but if I do all of the stuff before it I think that will just lead to my game getting better,” she said.
The Killer Whales are aiming for finals and have a strong drive to win this year’s league.
“First aim is finals and hopefully we can just bring the best out in each player, if everybody’s playing really well, we have a good shot at taking the trophy,” said Southern.
Looking back, Southern has enjoyed some great moments in the sport, but the ultra competitive Queenslander is still looking ahead to a possible third Olympic Games and potentially even sooner re-joining the Aussie Stingers in camp this month.
“I would love to be in Tokyo if I can mentally and physically get there.”
“My plan was to move to Sydney, enjoy the sport again. I didn’t really think I would be back after Rio, I think it’s good to be back in the water and I am trying to get fit again, trying to get a couple of little injuries back on track.
“After AWL I’ll probably reassess, hopefully I’ll have a good season and it will kind of go from there,” she said.
Southern would’ve loved to have been in camp for the Italian series in January this year but just couldn’t because of her shoulder injury.
She has declared herself available for the Aussie Stingers next camp later this month on the Sunshine Coast, but admits her lighter training schedule will probably play a factor in selection.
“It will be great to have USA here in Australia, we always want to be number one, playing the best in the world will always help that.
“I think it’s great for the Sunshine Coast, they have a few keen players who travel to Brisbane and it will be inspiring for them and really good for the Sunshine Coast to host something this big.
“I’m looking forward to being there or seeing the results,” she said.
Catch Ash next time she makes a splash in the pool for round six of the OVO Australian Water Polo League:
UNSW Wests Killer Whales vs Sydney University Lions
Saturday March 10, 2:00pm AEDT
Ashfield Aquatic Centre
To view all round six feature, click here.