Canberra, Australia, April 5, 2015 – Australian women’s volleyball coach Mark Barnard conducted a selection camp at the AIS in Canberra, taking an important step towards the Olympic Games.
Barnard has in mind Tokyo 2020 and not Rio 2016.
“Rio 2016 is probably a bit close for us right now,” Barnard admits. “But in terms of our progress for the next five years, this weekend is very important for us.”
On April 6, Barnard will name his squad that will compete at the Asian Championship in China, and the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix.
Eighteen of Australia’s leading players have spent their Easter trying to impress coach Barnard and the women’s Volleyroos coaching staff.
The European and US college-based players are not at the camp, but Barnard states that there are about nine squad slots up for grabs.
“We’ve got a lot of fresh new faces here, which is exciting,” Barnard said.
“Not having our overseas players here is not an ideal preparation, but it gives a chance for our young players who are coming through.”
The Australian women’s volleyball program will also gear up for the World Grand Prix finals for Group 3 in July, which will be hosted in the capital city of Canberra.
Australia are guaranteed of a place in the finals as hosts, the first time their women’s team will be playing on home soil since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
“I told some these girls that they were just three years old the last time Australia played at home,” Barnard said. “It’s important for the exposure of our sport, the women’s side, for them to be seen playing in Australia.”
“I’m hoping this will be a turnaround for the women’s programme as we build towards 2020,” Barnard added.
Two of the Volleyroos most experienced players, Tara West and Olivia Orchard, have retired this year, and the team’s most experienced player, Rachel Rourke, may not be available until at least the the World Grand Prix final.
Barnard believes that there are some good young players coming through, including two 18-year-olds who will soon be playing in the revered US college programme.
Canberra’s Danushia Sipa-Borgeaut is heading to Texas, while Queensland’s Phoebe Bell will link up with Boise State University in Idaho.
Barnard is also welcoming back the experienced Shae Sloane, who took 2014 off to complete her studies.
“We’ve been doing two training sessions a day, it’s been pretty full on,” Sloane said. “I can’t wait to get back playing.”
The Volleyroos’ first task will be the Asian Championship in China in May, before the World Grand Prix Group 3 preliminary round in Kazakhstan and Algeria.
Australia will host the World Grand Prix Group 3 final in Canberra on the weekend of July 10-12.