Poland inflicted a heavy defeat on Australia last year in the men’s Volleyball Nations League (VNL) in Melbourne and Volleyroos libero, Luke Perry, says it still hurts.
The two sides will meet on the opening weekend of the VNL in Poland with the home side the reigning World Champions. They are red-hot favourites against Australia.
The tournament features the top 16 teams in the world playing in a round robin format.
Perry has a greater understanding than most of the strength of Polish volleyball, having spent the past season playing domestically in Poland as one of three foreign players in his club side. Prior to Poland, Perry spent two seasons in Berlin. In reflecting upon volleyball in Poland Perry says, ”The standard is very high, and the league is one of the toughest.” He says volleyball is ingrained in the sporting culture in a similar way to football in Australia. As such, the expectations on the national team are high. Luke says that suits his Australian side as they prepare to play the world champions on home soil. “It’s definitely special for me. There are no expectations and no limits.”
And that makes the Volleyroos an especially dangerous side to play against.
Australia’s other opponents on the opening weekend are Brazil and the United States; the silver and bronze medalists from the last world titles. The Volleyroos went down to the USA in a tough five setter in last year’s VNL and in three hard sets to Brazil. But it is the heavy defeat inflicted by Poland in Melbourne last year that brings back the most powerful memories for Perry. He says his side will have extra motivation when they meet in the opening round; ” Something went wrong against Poland last year so we have a point to prove.”
It is a gruelling tournament with 15 games in five weeks in different countries. Luke says, “The biggest challenge is handling the jet lag, but we know what to expect, we have enough depth to rotate.” The special bond among the Australian players also makes it easier; “We have a special connection, it’s a family. The Australian culture makes for a great group to be around and play with.”
In the final round before the playoffs the Volleyroos are in Brisbane against the reigning VNL Champions; Russia, China and Argentina. But Perry says, “Everyone is looking forward to it. We want to play at home against the top teams in front of our family and friends.”
For Luke Perry, this is an important stage in his volleyball career. After making his Australian senior debut at the age of 17 years, following his success through the Western Australian schools volleyball system, the 23 year old is excited by the prospect of his side creating the unexpected. Perry’s commitment and focus to this cause is palpable, “We have our own style and we are not scared about playing these teams.” He is looking forward to giving everything to the tournament ahead, alongside his dedicated Volleyroo teammates.
Tickets are selling fast for the Brisbane round of the series later in June. Tickets available through Ticketek