Journey down under everything Hill hoped and more

UWA Torpedoes driver Kingsley Hill was almost too scared to board the plane from California to Perth but as she nears the completion of the National Water Polo League season she couldn’t have loved her experience more.

Hill completed her four years of college at California’s Loyola Marymount University where she was a standout on the water polo team with the LMU Lions.

What she knew was that she was taking a year off before going on to earn her Masters in Nursing and in that time she wanted to head overseas to continue playing water polo.

She decided to overlook offers in Europe where the language and culture difference would have been significant, and turn her focus to Australia.

When she got in touch with the Torpedoes they were only too happy to welcome her on board.

Hill has proved a valuable addition to an increasingly youthful Torpedoes team.

While only 22, Hill has brought good experience to UWA alongside 2012 London Olympian Victoria Brown, captain Cathryn Earl and a young and emerging group.

While the wins haven’t quite come that she or the team would have hoped under new coach Scott Schweickle, she has enjoyed the experience.

That has made wins like last Thursday over the Brisbane Barracudas all the more memorable.

“It was definitely great to get another win. I know it’s at the end of the season, but it’s always nice to get a win especially against a good team like that. To win is always exciting and we had a couple of young girls step up too so it was a good feeling for us all,” Hill said.

“It has been a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything even though we haven’t been winning as many games as I would hope to, or our team and Scott would hope to. But it has been a great experience and I’m just here to have fun and I’ve definitely done that.”

 

For Hill, it only seems like yesterday that she arrived in Perth to begin her journey coming to a country where she knew no one and knew nothing about.

A few months later and it’s a sad feeling to be preparing for her last game this Friday night at UWA Aquatic Centre against the Fremantle Marlins.

Hill has enjoyed making the adjustment to the NWPL after playing in college and by playing in such a young team.

“I’m really sad actually to be going home. It has gone by very, very quick and it’s a short season only lasting a couple of months which is quite different to what I’m used to. It has been fun though,” Hill said.

“The water polo is pretty similar to back in college. Here all the Olympians from Australia play national league and at home in college they all play for the top four or five schools, so it’s similar in terms of being high competition so that’s always nice to play against to test yourself.

“It has been great to play with an ex-Olympian in Veebs. I’ve never had the opportunity to play with someone like that before. She just knows the game so well and she is able to basically be a second coach for us in the water and help us out.

“It is definitely different to have some younger girls on the team because at college most of your teammates are about the same age as you. But I was put in that position in college when I was a freshman in my first year and thrown in there, so it’s good to play with some younger players here.”

After finishing at college at Loyola Marymount, which just happens to be the same school that Perth Wildcats basketball champions Damian Martin and Matt Knight attended, Hill always knew she wanted to continue playing water polo.

Outside of the strong college competition, there’s little in the United States in terms of water polo so she knew it had to be an overseas adventure.

“I always knew I wanted to play after college because back home you are pretty much done after your four years of eligibility,” he said.

“But I always knew I wanted to continue playing because I had only started in high school. I wanted to keep on playing and enjoying water polo, and I’m taking a year off before doing my Masters so what better way than going abroad to Australia and having some fun.”

When deciding where to play, Hill liked the sound and thought of Australia more than Europe. Despite the challenges of learning the local slang, she has never regretted it.

“One of my old teammates is playing with a girl who played here before and they told me the club was looking for a player. So I got in contact with Damian (Kelly) and it all worked out from there,” Hill said.

“I was thinking about playing in Spain or Italy and I had some offers there, but I don’t think I could do the non-English speaking and learning a different language. I feel like that would be too hard. I had a couple of teammates do that and I’ve had a couple of teammates come to Australia and they had nothing but great things to say.

“Even though it kind of seems like it’s not English you guys speak because of the crazy words that I have no idea what they mean, but other than that it has been a very easy transition. There are just all these random words that I should know what they mean and I have no idea, so I don’t know what language they are speaking sometimes.”

Hill was excited about what awaited her in coming to Australia until the reality hit when she had to board the plane.

The fact she was heading to a foreign country she knew nothing about and going somewhere that there was nobody she knew and nobody that knew her all suddenly dominated her thoughts on the marathon flight.

“It doesn’t really hit you about what you are getting into until you are on that 34-hour flight and sitting in that seat alone going somewhere that you don’t know anything about, or anyone who lives there,” she said.

“Then once I got here in that first week it was obviously scary going to training by myself and meeting a new group of girls, and then learning how to drive on the other side of the road and how to drive a manual which I never knew. It was all a big life change for me but it has worked out for the best.”

What she found in Perth was perfectly to her liking and she has loved every second of the experience once she got settled in.

“Before I came here I knew nobody out here so when I got on the plane I was thinking what am I doing and why did I do this. But once I got here I realised I have a great host family who I love and I’m going to miss them extremely much,” Hill said.

“It all just worked out. I trusted the process. I didn’t know much about Australia either. I just kind of made the decision to come here. Surprisingly it’s kind of like home.

“The weather’s not very much different to California, I love the beaches here and I’m really going to miss those because I’ve been going to the beach every day. Really it is pretty similar to home in a lot of ways.”

Wanting to get her Masters in Nursing means that Hill’s professional water polo career is now likely over, at least for now.

She won’t rule anything out down the track, but reality is once she is back home there won’t be an opportunity to continue in anything like what she has experienced in Australia.

“We don’t have anything like national league over there so really if you want to keep playing you have to go abroad to Italy, Spain or here,” she said.

“I need to go back to get my Masters in Nursing so that’s my priority but I’d love to come back. I love Australia and I don’t want to leave, and I would stay for a couple more months if the opportunity arose but who knows about coming back to play one day.”

Hill has one last national league game to go with the Torpedoes this Friday night in the derby against the Fremantle Marlins. She is hoping UWA can get the win before she then plays in the Premier League grand final for the UWA City Beach Bears against the Melville Marlins on Saturday.

“I sure hope we can finish off with a win. It’s a big game for us and I know we’re all looking forward to it,” she said.

“We will have the home pool advantage so hopefully that helps us. We are looking forward to it and hopefully it’s a different ending to last time at their pool.”

As for the immediate future after this weekend, Hill is going to make the most the next month with her Torpedoes teammates and what Perth has to offer.

She will also spend some time with her family in Fiji before heading home to find the one thing she has missed the most.

“I’m going to see our family in Fiji before going home and I’ll be spending a couple of days in Sydney, but other than that before I leave I’ll hang out with the girls as much as possible. I’ll have to say bye to my friends I’ve made and my host family,” Hill said.

“I’m pretty used to being away from my family after four years in college and with all the technology now it’s pretty easy to stay in touch with them. Honestly there hasn’t been a hard part at all really for me except for the food.

“I have missed having real Mexican food. The last food I had before I left was Taco Bell and that’s going to be the first thing I have when I get home. Really that’s the only thing that I have really missed too much.”