DAYNA O’Leary might no longer be shooting for that Olympics dream, but it isn’t stopping her being one of Western Australia’s finest water polo players whether it’s at national league level for the UWA Torpedoes or in the A-Grade competition with Triton.
For years O’Leary was part of the water polo program at the WA Institute of Sport and everything she was doing was with the ultimate goal of representing Australia at the Olympic Games.
Along the way she did get the chance to play in the junior national team and then at senior level with the Australian Stingers.
There was a time where it looked like it was a realistic possibility as she continued to be a strong performer in the pool wherever she was playing whether locally in Water Polo WA competitions, nationally for the UWA Torpedoes or indeed on the international stage.
While O’Leary is only 23 years of age, she has made the decision to no longer chase that Olympics dream or to remain part of the WAIS water polo program, but that doesn’t mean her passion for the sport is diminishing.
She was captain of the Torpedoes for last season’s cut short Australian Water Polo League campaign while she is currently playing some tremendous water polo for Triton in the 2020 A-Grade competition where she is the league’s second leading goalscorer.
O’Leary is enjoying being back in the pool with Triton for this A-Grade competition with Water Polo WA able to get things up and running pretty much business as usual despite the challenges COVID-19 has presented throughout 2020.
“I love playing for Triton! This is my third season at the club and I’ve enjoyed playing every season,” O’Leary said.
“We have a really good group of girls in the team with a mix of older more experienced players and some younger players who have a lot of potential. Having Obie as our coach as well is such a huge benefit, I have learned a lot from him already and I think he’s done a lot to develop our team.
“It’s also been great playing with girls who I played National League with many years ago again like Cathryn, Tilly, Millie and Liv. I think we’re definitely proving to be competitive this season, and we have the potential to be there playing the Grand Final.”
There are now just two rounds remaining in the regular season of the A-Grade competition ahead of the semi finals and then Grand Final on Saturday December 12 with O’Leary remaining confident Triton can be part of that.
But really she is just happy to be able to be back playing water polo despite what COVID-19 continues to impact around the country and world, and especially after the way it ended last season’s AWL campaign prematurely.
“It’s definitely a relief getting back in the pool again! There was definitely a lot of uncertainty earlier on about if we were going to be able to play again or not, so I’m glad season has been able to go ahead as normal,” O’Leary said.
“”I think the most difficult thing about season ending so abruptly was that we were in Sydney, and we got told the season would be finishing right before we were scheduled to play our last game of the road trip.
“We still went ahead and played the game, but it was really difficult to find the motivation as a team to play that game knowing that we were no longer competing to make finals. Overall though for me personally, it has been a pretty good year.
“It has been nice to have a bit of a break and I’ve been able to focus on work and other priorities which has been a change!”
While O’Leary’s immediate focus in terms of water polo is finishing off the season with Triton in the A-Grade competition as successfully as possible, she remains hopeful that the 2021 AWL season will get up and running.
All signs are that it will be able to get underway as per normal early in 2021 and O’Leary is looking forward to again leading the way for a young Torpedoes team against the best players in the country who will be looking to put their best foot forward to earn national honours.
“Yeah I am hoping everything can get up and running as normal in terms of national league, provided that its safe for everyone involved. It’s all so uncertain at the moment, so all we can do is wait and see and be fit and prepared if it does go ahead,” she said.
“Absolutely. It really was a natural progression for me into that leadership role, having been in leadership groups and then as captain together with Tess.
“I enjoy the responsibility of leading the girls, we’ve got a good core group who can develop into a strong side and then the younger girls coming into the Torpedoes squad from both UWA City Beach and Triton have put us in great stead.”
O’Leary is content with her decision to no longer be striving to play international water polo for Australia so she can focus on her career outside the sport.
Having now graduated from the University of WA with a Bachelor of Commerce where she majored in Finance, O’Leary is currently working at the Association of Mining Exploration Companies.
She is enjoying this new stage of her life already and while playing at the Olympics for Australia is no longer something she is chasing, she is hoping the Tokyo Games do go ahead in 2021 having been postponed in 2020, and she’ll be a keen onlooker to the Stingers team.
“When I was in WAIS. Olympics was the ultimate goal for me. Since I’ve left WAIS my priorities have shifted more toward my studies and career,” O’Leary said.
“While I really enjoy playing national league and still aim to be the best I can be in the water, my career is my main priority now and my goals now are in the workplace, rather than in the pool.
“Back when I was training at an elite level I was definitely hopeful of the possibility of getting picked for Tokyo, although I think I was a while off selection.
“Now that I’m no longer playing at international level I’ve just been enjoying playing with my friends and for the enjoyment of the sport, not so much for that level of competition.
“I really do hope that the Olympics can go ahead in 2021, for all those girls who have worked so hard to get to where they are in the Stingers squad now.”