Born and raised in North Queensland, Ashleigh Southern began playing water polo in a local dam. She made her national debut in 2010 at the Longmont tournament in Sydney and immediately impressed, scoring a remarkable eight goals in a 10-8 victory over the USA. Southern’s scoring prowess helped Australia claim silver at the 2010 World Cup and bronze at the 2011 World League Super Finals and by 2012 she was playing in every major tournament.
Southern made her Olympic debut at the London 2012 Games and was the youngest member of the women’s water polo team at 19. After topping their group in the preliminary round the Australians played extra time games in the quarter-final, semi-final and bronze medal decider. They defeated China in a penalty shoot-out before falling to their American rivals in the semi 11-9. In the bronze medal showdown Hungary scored in the final second to force an extra period. The Australians remained composed and scored the only two goals in added time to take home the bronze medal, 13-11. Southern finished her debut campaign as joint top scorer for Australia with 12 goals.