The return of dual Olympic champion Grant Hackett to the Australian world championship swimming team has been lauded as "fantastic" by national head coach Jacco Verhaeren – but not just for what the 34-year-old Queensland will offer in the water, but off it too.
The Dutchman, speaking on the final night of the Australian swimming championships at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre, agreed that Hackett's presence would be as good for him as it would be for the swimmers on the team. Verhaeren's comments came several hours before Swimming Australia announced its national team – that the coach said would be "about 40" strong – for the world titles to be held at Kazan in Russia in August.
"Fantastic," was Verhaeren's first word when asked what he felt about Hackett's qualification for the men's 4 x 200-metres relay squad after he finished fourth in the individual 400-metres event.
"It is great to have someone of his status, his name in the team. I am actually curious what he thinks about ... he can relate to what the team looked like in the past because I wasn't part of that.
"With his experience he can definitely add value to this team. So it is great to have him back.
"But like any others swimmer I really hope, and I expect from what I have seen so far and last year at Com Games and at Pan Pacs, we had great teams with a great culture. I really hope he will be positively surprised by the team."
However, Verhaeren stressed that it was still up to Hackett to fit in to the culture of the team.
"I think everyone in our team plays his own role and adds his or her own value and we respect that," Verhaeren said.
"I think we need to respect at first that swimming is an individual sport. We pick all individuals because they can swim fast, because they make standards which is a great thing. After that we are going to build that team to make it work together. And everybody on the team, whether you are a 16 year-old or a 34 year-old, then everyone in between that plays an important role. Key to that is respect within the team, respect for the different circumstances where people are coming from."
Verhaeren also gave a tick to two-times world 100-metres champion James Magnussen for making the team.
Dolphins squad (in alphabetical order): Matt Abood, Jessica Ashwood, Hayley Baker, Bronte Barratt, Josh Beaver, Bronte Campbell, Cate Campbell, Kyle Chalmers, Ash Delaney, Tommaso D'Orsogna, Brittany Elmslie, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Madeline Groves, Grant Hackett, Jayden Hadler, Kurt Herzog, Mack Horton, Grant Irvine, Mitch Larkin, James Magnussen, Cameron McEvoy, David McKeon, Emma McKeon, Taylor McKeown, Keryn McMaster, David Morgan, Leah Neale, Jake Packard, Kylie Palmer, Emily Seebohm, Daniel Smith, Christian Sprenger, Brianna Throssell, Lorna Tonks, Ben Treffers, Tessa Wallace, Madison Wilson, Melanie Wright (nee Schlanger).