Rocket-arm poached by Italy

14 May 2009

Leading Australian water polo player Pietro Figlioli has defected to Italy after signing a lucrative deal with Italian club Pro Recco.

The Aussie Sharks will be without the world's most lethal shooter whose shot speed has been recorded at almost 100km/h.

Australian men's team head coach John Fox said Australia couldn't match the dollars offered to players by European clubs.

Figlioli, who has played 152 senior internationals, will become one of the highest paid water polo stars in the world.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for him," said Fox. "You can't begrudge him that but we nurtured him through juniors, the Australian Institute of Sport and with the senior team.

"It was a situation where we couldn't hold on to him."

Fox said that leaving the Australian team was the hardest decision of Figlioli's life.

"He said it was a lifestyle decision and he had discussed it with his family and friends," Fox said. "He expressed disappointment at not being able to play for Australia again."

Figlioli's loss comes on top of the withdrawal of the senior core of the Aussie Sharks ahead of July's world championships in Rome, meaning that seven players from last year's Beijing Olympics won't be available.

"Its a sad loss for Australian water polo and it will be near impossible to replace him," Fox said.