A surprise medal haul at the world short-course titles has convinced head coach Jacco Verhaeren that Australia are on track for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where they hope to reclaim the No.1 title.
An Australian team without the bulk of their superstars finished the six-day titles in Windsor, Canada, with two gold, two silver and seven bronze.
Their 11-medal tally was the equal-fourth highest of the meet.
Remarkably, the Dolphins' 19-strong team featured 11 rookies.
And they showed enough to get Verhaeren excited about Tokyo, where Australia's game plan is to reclaim the No.1 ranking for the first time since 2001.
"It's a great start to the next four years," Verhaeren said of the world short-course titles.
"I always consider this as the first international meet of the new Olympic cycle.
"I'd say the tone is set and that is great.
"When you go to a world championship, it is about performing to the best of your abilities and making medals as a result of that."
The Australian team arrived without the world-beating Campbell sisters, James Magnussen, Rio Olympic champ Kyle Chalmers, Emma McKeon and Cameron McEvoy due to injury or unavailability.
Yet they still walked away with an impressive tally, trailing only the US (29 medals), Japan (15) and Russia (13).
They equalled the 11 medal haul of Hungary, which was bolstered by Katinka Hosszu's extraordinary seven gold tally.
"What really excites me is that we have good depth in the program," Verhaeren said.
"We know that some Olympians, and rightfully so, pulled off this team.
"But by doing that they have given other people an opportunity."
Australia's tally was topped up on Monday (AEDT) by one silver and two bronze.
London Olympian Tommaso D'Orsogna claimed third in the 100m freestyle before anchoring Australia to 4x100m medley relay silver in the final night's action.
Australia touched the wall in third place behind Russia and the US before the Americans were disqualified for an illegal turn in the breaststroke leg.
Australia's Emily Seebohm, Jess Hansen, Emily Washer and Brittany Elmslie claimed bronze in the women's 4x100m medley relay.
Verhaeren dipped his hat to his rookie team, notably debutant Kiah Melverton, who claimed 800m freestyle bronze and Rio Olympian David Morgan (50m, 100m butterfly bronze).