AS IMAGES of the 2007 World Swimming Championships in Melbourne were splashed across our television screens last month, Bega Valley Shire Council's director of corporate and community services Leanne Barnes was there among the action as chef de mission of the Australian women's water polo team.
This year's event was Ms Barnes' seventh World Swimming Championship, which she has attended as an athlete, coach, manager and senior official, but 2007 was her first time as head of the Australian women's water polo team.
Her team enjoyed another successful year in 2007, winning silver in a close tussle with the US.
The win was just one of many highlights for Msd Barnes who witnessed many magic moments in aquatic sport, including Australia winning silver in the diving and bronze in the open water swim which, swum over 10 kilometres, finished in a dead heat.
She also mixed with the likes of Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and some of the world's best athletes.
"In the hotel we were staying at I got to spend time with athletes from Ukraine, Venezuela and Ghana," she said.
"Many of these were long distance swimmers who had never even seen the beach before."
Since Ms Barnes took up water polo at university in Melbourne in the 1970s, she has had many achievements in and out of the water.
As an athlete, she competed for the Victorian State team for many years and the Australian team from 1978-82.
From there she "fell" into coaching and administration, serving as coach and manager for the Victorian and Australian teams and becoming a Victorian Water Polo board member in the 1980s.
Since then, a successful water polo career has taken her to seven World Swimming Championships, two Olympic Games and many World Cups.
But certainly one of her most notable achievements was her major role in establishing women's water polo as an Olympic sport in 2000.
"I headed up the Australian push in 1982 as part of an international committee that was made up of representatives from all of the Olympic regions," she said.
Despite their active lobbying, the committee failed to establish women's water polo as an Olympic event for Atlanta in 1996.
When it was announced that Sydney would host the 2000 Olympics, Ms Barnes "upped the ante" and headed up an Australian committee, bolstered by international support, dedicated to put women's water polo on the Olympic program.
Thanks to the committee's lobbying and with the help of Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, women's water polo was introduced as an Olympic event for the 2000 games in Sydney.
Not only had it taken almost 20 years of lobbying to get the sport into the Olympics, but it was introduced 100 years later than men's water polo which has been an Olympic event since the modern games started in the 1900s.
At the 2000 Olympics, Ms Barnes was SOCOG IOC relations and protocol manager for water polo which involved liaison with royalty and politicians from all over the world.
"Prior to 2000 I had met one royal person," she said.
"In the one week I was working at the Sydney Olympics I met 40."
Ms Barnes is already involved in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as chair of the Beijing Athlete Program for the Australian Sports Commission and AOC for water polo (men and women).
She is also a board director of Australian Water Polo Incorporated and has held a number of senior roles with SOCOG, the women's water polo high performance committee and the AWPI Gender Equity Committee, among others.
On a local level, she has also had incredible success, particularly in water polo development.
She was the founder of the Sapphire Coast Water Polo club which started three years ago and has produced representative sides playing in the NSW junior State titles, ACT competitions and schools competition.
She also sponsors the Far South Coast schools program and runs coaching and development programs locally, giving youngsters the opportunity to learn from such a skilled player.
"I coached the Eden Marine High School girls water polo team, many of which had only started playing the sport in October last year," she said.
"Since then they've made into the top eight schools of the State."
Although Ms Barnes longer competes in water polo, every now and then she will jump in and have a throw with the local kids, or when she catches up with her former team-mates.
She said water polo was a challenging sport, as it required a high level of skill and fitness, but it offered a fantastic opportunity to play a team sport in the water.
"Because we're playing in the water, you don't get a lot of the injuries you can get playing on land," she said.
As for juggling her time between wearing her water polo and council hats,Ms Barnes has become a pro at that too.
"I've always managed it. Luckily we have the airport in Merimbula as it means that I can live here and stay involved with water polo at this level."
A stellar sporting career
LEANNE Barnes has an outstanding record of achievement in women's water polo.
*Club player and administrator with University, Footscray and Lauriston in Victoria. Built the Lauriston Club and now building Sapphire Coast
*Founder and builder of the Sapphire Coast Water Polo club on NSW far south coast. Started water polo three years ago and now has representative sides playing in NSW junior state titles, ACT competitions and schools competition. Sponsor the schools program in the far south coast and run coaching and development programs locally
*Coach with Barry Grant Sapphire Coast under 14 side NSW State titles 2006
*Coach with Barry Grant ACT East Coast Challenge girls side 2006
*Coach with Barry Grant Sapphire Coast under 16s at NSW state titles February 2007
*State player Victoria
*State Coach women Victoria 1991 and Manager 1984
*National player 1978 - 1982
*National team coach 1982
*National team manager 1983 -1991
*Junior National Team Manager 1999 World Championships
*FINA representative 1988-1992
*Board member Victorian Water Polo in 1980s
*Board member Australian Water Polo current
*Attended 7 world swimming championships, 2 Olympic Games and many World Cups
*Arranged funding for the celebration of water polo publication
*Chair AWPI Gender Equity Committee for the period of its life
*Key driver internationally and within Australia for Olympic inclusion for women's water polo
*Member of numerous review committees and liaison committees for water polo
*SOCOG IOC relations and protocol manager for water polo at the Sydney Olympic Games
*Assistant Chef de Mission Australian Team World Swimming Championships Melbourne 2007
*Chair of the High Performance Committee women's water polo 1999 - 2004
*Chair Beijing Athlete Program for Aust Sports Commission and AOC for water polo (men and women) 2005 - 2008