Olympic dreams come true

Published 5:00am 22 May 2024

Olympic dreams come true
Words by Nick Crockford

Above: Charlize Andrews and Alice Williams who are off to Paris. Pictures Gregg Porteous Water Polo Australia

Charlize Andrews and Alice Williams are poised to write a new chapter in the Olympic history of North Brisbane Polo Bears, at Albany Creek.

The duo has been named in Australia’s 13-strong Stingers women’s water polo squad for the Olympic tournament in Paris from July 27-August 11.

They will join four-time Olympian Bronwen Knox, who plays for Polo Bears; Naomi McCarthy, 2000 Olympic gold medallist now a Polo Bears coach; and 2012 Olympian Billy Miller on Polo Bears’ honours board at Albany Creek Leisure Centre.

It is reward for years of hard work with Andrews and Williams now also planning breaks from university to prepare and play in Paris, where they will have family supporting in the stands.

Andrews went to St Paul’s School, Bald Hills and is now at Griffith University studying nursing. She will finish this trimester and defer the next while at the Olympics.

Now 22, Andrews joined Polo Bears 13 years ago and rose through the ranks to star for the club’s Water Polo Queensland Premier League-winning women’s team.

She won Australian junior and youth caps – and was named Most Valuable Player at World Championships in both levels - before her senior Stingers debut at the 2022 FINA World League Intercontinental Cup in Peru.

Last year she helped Australia to fourth at the World Aquatic Championships in Japan and this year to sixth at the world titles in Doha.

“It has been a very challenging journey, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too,” the utility player said. “It has taken a lot of dedication and sacrifices.

“I found out I had been selected for Paris at the start of May. I was so relieved and happy that all the training and hard work had paid off."

“Growing up I had a lot of different sports. Eventually I had to choose between netball and water polo. When I chose water polo the Olympics became my ultimate goal.”

Alice Williams, 25, is studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at QUT but has deferred for 2024 to meet training and travel demands ahead of Paris.

She plays as a right-handed driver and was with Polo Bears from 2021-2023, also helping the senior women to the WPQ Premier League title.

However, last year starred for her Italian club L’Ekipe Orizzonte Catania as it won the Italian professional league and was the competition’s second highest scorer with 45.

Williams made her Stingers’ debut in 2017 and her World Championships debut last year in Japan where she was named in the Media All-Star team.

Below - telling family and friends of Olympic selection

“It has been a huge challenge to make the Olympic team,” Williams said. “I was deselected before the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and suffered many injuries and illnesses since.

“We’re not a sport with a huge amount of funding so we have to find time to get jobs that work around our training and travel schedules, which can be difficult.”

“I found out (about Olympic selection) via a phone call. It was very emotional. The first thing I thought was I needed to call my mum. She’s been my rock.

“Playing at the Olympics is only one of my goals. Getting an Olympic medal with the team is my ultimate goal.”

Ex-Stingers captain Bronwen Knox, a Deputy Chef de Mission with the Australian Olympic team in Paris, has been a key figure in the careers of both players.

Olympic dreams come true
Charlize Andrews is officially welcomed onto the Paris team. Picture Gregg Porteous Water Polo Australia

Williams said: “She has been a mentor for eight years and played many roles in my life including as a team-mate. I’m lucky to call her a friend as well.”

Andrews added: “Bron has been an amazing leader ever since I joined the QAS and has had such helpful advice and feedback.”

Williams and Andrews will have a two-week camp in Brisbane and fly to Europe next month for training and matches ahead of the Olympics in July.

Both predict the competition will be “tough” and "every team is strong", but Williams says the Stingers are up for the task and their goal is to "medal in Paris".

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