Italian star to join Hurricanes

THE depth of female talent at the Hunter Hurricanes has attracted Italian Olympic gold medallist Elena Gigli and the interest of US college championship-winning coach Laszlo Hruza for the 2014 National Water Polo League season.

In a major coup for Hunter, Gigli, 28, has announced on Italian media that she has accepted an offer from the Hurricanes to join them next season.

The 190-centimetre-tall goalkeeper will replace the departing Ellie Singleton on their roster.

Gigli, at 19 years and 48 days, became the youngest Olympic gold medallist for her country when the Italian women’s team won at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

She has since been a mainstay of the Italian team, competing at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Meanwhile, Hruza could also give the side an international edge next season.

Head coach at Arizona and Michigan state universities, Hruza will be in Australia in two weeks for a holiday until Christmas.

While in the Hunter, the Hungarian will meet with Hurricanes officials and players after approaching the club about the possibility of coaching the women’s team next year.

Hruza took Michigan State’s men’s side to the National Collegiate Club Championship in 2008 and was the Big Ten NCCA coach of the year in 2009. Last year he was head coach of men’s water polo at the Shanghai Swimming Association in China.

Previously he coached the Hurricanes’ South African imports Sarah Harris and Kelsey White at Arizona State.

Hilary Barton, director of the women’s program at the Hurricanes, said Hruza’s interest in the vacant women’s coaching position was a boost for the club.

‘‘He approached us and the reason he is interested is because of the girls in the team who have so much potential,’’ Barton said.

Hunter are on the search for a women’s coach after men’s boss Daniel Marsden stepped aside from the dual role at the end of last season.

The Hurricanes’ women’s side have struggled in the NWPL but had Julia Barton, Georgia McConville, Emily Grellman, Sarah McGowan, Laura Robinson and Montana Perkins in touring Australian under-age teams this year.

Star imports Harris and White provided experience and guidance to the young NWPL squad this year but they are not returning next season.

HUNTER BOUND: Italian Olympic gold medallist Elena Gigli in action. Picture: Joe Arma

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