Gamble pays off for Bawden and Clancy



Playing in Fort Lauderdale would have been more lucrative, would have given them more experience against top class opposition, but in the end the decision for Australian beach volleyballers Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy was simple.

"We as a team are supported to represent Australia, and to represent the Australian beach volleyball high performance program," Bawden said after successfully defending their Asian beach title in Hong Kong.

"We want to represent our country whenever and wherever we can. And this was a great opportunity."

While Bawden and Clancy were busy seeing off the best teams Asia and Oceania have to offer on the weekend, most of the world's best teams were competing in the season-ending World Tour event in Fort Lauderdale.

And when they beat the well regarded Vanuatu pair of Linline Matauatu and Miller Pata to win gold on Sunday, Bawden knew they’d made the right decision.

Bawden admits the Fort Lauderdale event did have attractions. The prizemoney was good, and the format where you are guaranteed of playing at least four of the best teams in the world were also enticing.

But the event carried no world ranking points, and less than 12 months out from Rio, its ranking points that are important.

The Asian Championships did carry points. It was Bawden and Clancy’s 11th ranking tournament of the year, meaning they only have to play one more before they can start culling their worst results.

Not that they’ve had many this year. It’s been a big 2015, that has propelled the Australians into the world top ten and almost guaranteed their country a place at Copacabana Beach next year.

“I could reel off the top of my head two or three match results this year that went down to the wire and went against us,” Bawden said from Hong Kong.

“Those results could have changed where we are, so it still burns in my chest. We always want more, and you’re only ever as good as your next performance.”

“But at least now we can prioritise next year. We can focus on our game rather than earning points.”

It’s a dream position for the Adelaide-based pair to fins themselves in. Bawden admits that financially she’s in the best position she’s ever been in her professional sporting career, and she can now take some time off before a full-on assault on Rio next year.

And while admitting to being a bit sick of airport lounges and long-haul flights, both she and Clancy will be heading back to Europe at Christmas time for the wedding off their team masseuse.

Bawden will be MC, and chief pie-watcher.

“We can’t ever switch off, certainly not at this stage,” she laughs.

“We have to watch how many mince pies are flying around.”

Australia’s Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar won bronze in Hong Kong to make it an all-Oceania podium at the Asian Championships.

Women's Indoor - Centre Of Excellence



VA seeks to establish a Centre of Excellence in Women’s Indoor Volleyball to be the home of the National Team (the Volleyroos) and the Centre of Excellence for the development of the most talented female players aspiring to be selected in the Volleyroos. It would be conducted under the same model as the VA Centre of Excellence for Men’s Indoor Volleyball, based at the AIS in Canberra. The Centre of Excellence would be a partnership between VA, the relevant State Volleyball Association, and a third party host/provider.

VA is seeking Expressions of Interest from various organisations and bodies who may be interested in hosting the Centre of Excellence.

More information can be found here.

Volleyball stars of future head to Canberra



Volleyball teams from all over Australasia will converge on Canberra this week for the Australian Junior Volleyball Championships, with Queensland looking to continue its domination of the 26-year-old event.

A total of 43 teams, including from New Zealand, will compete in U17 Challenger and Champions, and U19 Champions divisions.

Teams from Queensland have won the coveted Presidents Cup title in eight of the past nine years.

Victoria broke Queensland’s domination in 2012.

Several former and current Australian Olympians have played at the Australian Championships, and this year’s event is once again expected to unearth stars of the future.

This will be the third year the Championships will be held at the Australian Institute of Sport, the home of the Volleyroos.

Matches start on Monday, September 28, with the finals on Saturday, October 3.


Barnard and everyone associated with the fledgling International team had been impressed with the side’s progress during their first two Grand Prix games.

Sure, they lost to Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic in straight sets, but the Volleyroos showed plenty of the underdog spirit Barnard spoke so openly about in the event lead-up.

On Sunday, it was gone.

“We just did not play very well for probably 70 per cent of the match,” Barnard said.

“There were spurts there, but we were physically outmatched. We made way too many errors. The experience of being resilient, of going through that a lot of times and learning how to get out of it, we haven’t learned that.”

Barnard took the decision to give the players the morning off from training ahead of the Croatia game because he was worried about burn out.

He’s now not sure that was the right call.

“Maybe we should have pushed through it,” he said.

“But in the back of my mind I know they don’t play and train all the time, so it’s very easy to train them into the ground. Part of the intention today was to have them rest. I’m just not sure what the correlation between not doing anything this morning and the result this afternoon.”

The reality is this is a steep learning curve for the Volleyroos, and anyone who follows the sport in Australia knows this is the first step down a long and winding road.

Volleyball Australia President Craig Carracher knows.

“Let’s remember this is off the back of a decade of limited support,” he said after Sunday’s loss.

“This is the start of a rebuilding process, a process to create opportunity for a generation of players and coaches and administrators and officials.

“There are 200 countries playing women’s volleyball, and this was always going to be a long road. But we can’t not start the journey just because we know it’s a long and difficult one.”

Australia has the nucleus of a very good volleyball team, and with several players about to head to overseas leagues, and with several more hoping to follow, there is going to be more consistent exposure to the best.

But there are also a handful of players contemplating retirement. Some are listening to the protests of their own bodies, others are finding it difficult to balance full-time jobs with the commitment needed to play at the top level.

Which will leave enormous holes to fill. All the more reason Australia needs this Grand Prix experience to work.

Judging by the reaction of younger squad members like Nikki Cunningham and Jess Ryder, it’s a good news story so far.

“It’s a whole new level,” Ryder, who made her senior International debut against Kazakhstan on Friday, said.

“I can’t wait for the future years, when I can get on the court more, maybe even start on court.”

The immediate challenge for Australia, now they’ve taken one step back, is to move forward again next weekend in Croatia in week two of the Grand Prix.




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