Hey guys, back with the second Volleyball Nations League preview, which begins in two weeks from today. Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of the teams that you’re unfamiliar with and will allow you to follow the tournament more easily. The format consists of 5 weekends of round-robin play taking place in different locations around the world followed by a final round in Lille, France on July 4-8th.
I’ll be doing the previews in reverse order of my own personal, unofficial power rankings. Feel free to let me know why your team is too low.
While never an elite team, the “Volleyroos” have had a moderate amount of success at the men’s international level, including an appearance at the 2012 London Olympic games. Their roster for the 2018 Nations League, however, is plagued with injuries, indifference, and a generational gap that will likely be too much to overcome.
Let’s start off with some positive notes. Australia has one of the youngest rosters in the entire tournament, with all but 3 players in the preliminary roster born in the 90s. Playing in this tournament will give them some valuable and meaningful international experience that they can develop from. Their libero Luke Perry stands out in particular. Only 22 years old, he plays for the best clubs in Europe, the Berlin Recycling Volleys, and figures to be one of the better liberos participating in the Nations League.
The captain Paul Carroll is a crafty opposite who can give them a big boost, and is one of their few 2012 Olympic veterans who is still playing with the team. Unfortunately, he will be missing the first two weeks of the tournament. Coach Marc Lebedew is considered a strong developmental coach who is also the author of a great coaching blog.
As I alluded to earlier, the myriad of problems that the Volleyroos face makes me nervous. Injuries plague two of their best players. Australia’s best volleyball product, 7-foot tall behemoth opposite Thomas Edgar, is losing yet another summer to surgically repair his ankle. Edgar hasn’t been seen on the on the international stage since scored an FIVB-record 50 points against Egypt in 2015, except for a brief appearance at the Olympic qualifiers in 2016. Outside hitter Nathan Roberts was injured partway through his season in France, where he helped lead AS Cannes to a promotion to the top French division.
Two Volleyroos veterans are simply not with the team for the Nations League. Aiden Zingel is a blocking specialist middle who played for Trentino in the Italian SuperLega this past season. Adam White is a 6’8 outside who plays with Perry and Carroll in Berlin. Both these players would have started for Australia and given them a big boost in the tournament.
A good indicator of a player’s talent level is where they play their club volleyball. Especially for countries with no domestic league like Australia, Canada, and the USA. If your national team starters are playing in Italy, Russia, Poland, and Brazil (and to a lesser extent France and Germany), then you likely have a strong team. This is not the case for Australia. Most of their young players are playing in clubs that even I’ve never heard of in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Tunisia. While sometimes it takes longer for foreign players to find their footing overseas, the lack of club pedigree is quite concerning.
Maybe Australia has some secret young stars that are waiting to unleash on the world, but most likely they win 2-3 games and don’t even sniff the final round in Lillie.
Likely starters (players to watch in italics):
OH: Luke Smith (Sporting Clube de Portugal)
OH: Paul Sanderson (Etoile Sportive du Sahel)
OPP: Lincoln Williams (United Volleys Rhein/Main)
MB: Travis Passier (EuroSitex Pribram)
MB: Beau Graham (F.L. Sait-Quentin VB)
S: Harrison Peacock (BBTS Bielsko-Biala)
L: Luke Perry (Berlin Recycling Volleys)