Get to know Aussie Stinger Tilly Kearns

At just 19 years old, Tilly Kearns is one of the youngest members of the Australian women's water polo Aussie Stingers. 

We caught up with Tilly to hear some of her favourite memories playing with the Aussie Stingers so far, how the lockdown period was for her and receive valuable advice for younger athletes aspiring to represent their country.

DS: I’m sure you get this all the time but how did you get into water polo?

Like many waterpolo players, I started as a swimmer, among a heap of other sports like netball, touch rugby, surf life saving, soccer etc. A team in the local junior competition was short on players and asked if I could help fill the numbers one week. I instantly loved it. I enjoyed all of my other sports but as soon as I tried waterpolo, they didn’t matter and I was set!  


You’ve played all over the country and the world with your club team and both junior and senior Australian teams, do you have any particular favourite memories or trips?

Waterpolo has well and truly taken me all over the world! I am SO grateful for that, I cherish all of the memories I’ve made from so many different countries, ranging from New Zealand to Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Netherlands, Italy, United States, Spain just to name a few! 


It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite but one tour to the Netherlands with the junior Australian team (in 2016) does come to mind. Each session we would walk through a stunning forest road from our hotel to get to the pool, which was tucked away and hidden in the trees. Also, training and playing against the Dutch team was a great experience as they’re so strong and skilful, as one of my first international tours I learnt so much from them and established the high level of waterpolo that I wanted to play at. 


 

It’s great to see training start to resume, how has lockdown been for you? Have you been able to keep in touch with your Aussie Stinger team mates who live all over Australia?

Surprisingly, I came to really enjoy my lockdown routine. All of my water polo specific training was done in the ocean, whilst terrifying early in the morning, the change from chlorine to salt water and fresh air was SO refreshing! 

The team kept well connected throughout the whole of lockdown with regular zoom catch ups. And as soon as restrictions started to ease we began getting together in small groups/pairs when we could to make lockdown training just that little bit more fun!


As everyone will see in your Week in Lockdown vlog, you are quite the chef - do you have any go to recipes?

Haha - my scrambled eggs on smashed avo toast is really the extent of my cooking! It’s something I’m working on!!!! 


On top of your cooking skills you were recently featured in an ABC video among other female athletes such as Serena Williams, Jessica Fox, Bethany Hamilton and Cate Campbell for your multitasking skills (changing shirts + hitting table tennis balls whilst on a medicine ball). What’s next?

I got the shock of my life being featured in that video! One minute I’m watching Serena Williams and the next I’m watching me! It was so exciting. I’m not sure if I can top it but... stay tuned!


Growing up in a rugby family which is a professional sport in both Australia and NZ, have you ever thought about ways that water polo can grow to a self-sustaining level? Is it a matter of exposing the sport to more people?

I’m surrounded in just as much rugby as I am water polo! It would be my biggest dream come true if waterpolo could get to that self-sustaining level that rugby is. It is already at that level in plenty of European countries. I think it is absolutely a matter of getting the sport out there. Most people who watch waterpolo for the first time think it’s an awesome game to watch (which it is), but they just don’t know the rules. Bringing awareness to the game and teaching it’s rules will definitely aid in the growth of water polo. I could go on forever about this! 


So you recently moved back home from USC one of America’s top universities for both water polo and academia. What was it like playing over there and what tips do you have for any Australian or New Zealand athletes looking to play in the College system over there?

Playing and studying in the US was such a great experience. It really taught me the mindset I need to succeed in water polo, and the commitment it takes to become one of the best in the world, as I was playing with and against some of the best in the world!

You develop and grow in many more ways than just as a waterpolo player. It’s definitely not a walk in the park, but the things you learn and get to experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world! 


You are such a great ambassador for our sport, it’s awesome to have you as a Delfina Ambassador. Do you have any final pieces of advice for anyone aspiring to represent their country in a state or national team?

My piece of advice for anyone aspiring to represent their country is: If it was easy, everyone would do it! Don’t give up when the going gets tough... the places you get to visit, people that become family, life lessons you learn are all so invaluable and is what makes sport so special! 


Check out below's re-released video to spend a Week in Lockdown with Tilly Kearns.