By ADRIAN MILLER
FORFEITING her chance to make the Australian women's water polo team nearly two years ago was a tough decision for Ballina's Jasmine Collins, but after a French national championship title, playing in the European Cup and experiencing a different way of life, she isn't disappointed.
Collins, 27, returned to Ballina in March after playing water polo for Nancy in the French league for 18 months, before a call shortly after her return caused her to pack her bags again.
Collins will return to France soon to play in the French national championship finals in June where Nancy is hoping to go back-to-back after claiming the title last season.
"I'm looking forward to going back, although it'll only be a short trip, three or four weeks," she said. "It's going to be some very tight games.
"Last year we won relatively easily but this year we'll be competing against Nice, who are first in the division, but I'm pretty confident we'll have a win."
Collins is a massage therapist who is starting her own mobile business based in Ballina.
She believes she could have played for Australia before deciding to head overseas, but doesn't regret her decision.
"Due to the financial circumstances it's easier to play over there than here," she said.
"I was training at the QAS in Brisbane and was invited to train with the Australian squad but due to lack of support it was too hard to work, study and train.
"I couldn't do it so I took up the overseas offer. "I forfeited the right to make selection for the Australian team, but I'm happy with the decision."
Before Collins swapped the North Coast for the north-east of France, she played for the KFC Queensland Breakers in the Australian national league and Byron Bay in the Far North Coast women's A-grade competition where she won two premierships in a row.
This season was Collins' fourth playing in France and the former Alstonville High School student said that although she had loved the experience it was time to come home.
"It was a great experience to incorporate sport with another culture and live in another country," she said.
"I got to delve into another culture, which is something I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to do if not for water polo."
She will miss the league and the profile women's water polo enjoys.
"It's semi-professional for women over there which means all my expenses were paid for by the club as opposed to having to pay your way," she said.
"Over there in Europe water polo is a highly regarded sport and at a spectator level the involvement is pretty mind-blowing.
"In France you'd get a stadium full of people watching you play as compared to just a few people over here."