BILLY Miller's desperate quest for a world championships medal begins in earnest at the inaugural Super Series in Perth on Saturday.
The Sunshine Coast product and his Australian water polo teammates will take on Olympic champion Croatia in a $30,000 "exhibition" match.
There is plenty on the line, however, Miller says.
"It's certainly not a novelty event," he said.
"We're taking it as seriously as possible.
"It's a new-look Australian team and this match is a good stepping stone for us leading into the world championships at Barcelona in July."
The Sharks are intent on bagging a place on the podium at Barcelona after letting a prime opportunity slip at the Olympic Games last year.
In London, Australia led Serbia 7-4 in the quarter-finals but then scored just one goal in the second half to succumb 11-8.
"So I and the rest of the team are really craving some success," Miller said.
"We've been putting in a lot of effort and it's been a tough few years, but we're slowly getting there and we still believe we are a medal chance (at Barcelona).
"The world champs is a major goal, for myself to play well and for the team to get a medal and lift the standard of Australian water polo altogether."
The Sharks are in a rebuilding phase after the Games.
"We had about five or six players who retired, so the players who missed out on London are coming back in and there's also a younger generation of players coming through, so it's an interesting time for Australian water polo," Miller said.
"We're seeing where we're at as a team and we're seeing what we need to work on."
This weekend's confrontation will provide them with the perfect gauge.
"We have been training really hard for this game against Croatia and we'll be trying to stick it to the gold medallists," Miller said.
"Their average height is about six foot, eight inches (203cm) and (weight) about 105kg, so it's going to be a very physical game. But the Aussies, coming in with the underdog tag, are going to take it up to them."
Miller, who was in the Sharks' leadership group in London, said there was plenty of competition for places in the side ahead of the world titles.
"Even though the new Australian coach hasn't been officially named yet, it's a battle for spots and selectors will be trying to pick and expose the best 13 for Barcelona," he said.
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