The Australian men’s Volleyroos will take on reigning world champions Poland tonight in a warm-up match ahead of this year’s FIVB World League competition.
With the Australian squad hit by injuries and unavailability, it’s greatest weapon against the powerhouse Poland side, playing at their Polish High Performance Centre in Spola, may turn out to be new Volleyroos coach, Mark Lebedew.
Lebedew has spent the past 15 years coaching in some of the toughest leagues in the world, most recently at the helm of successful Polish club, Jastrebski Wegiel.
It will give him valuable insights into tonight’s opponents.
He will go into the match without star Libero, Luke Perry, who has a knee injury, and Max Staples, who dislocated his shoulder at training this week.
The team is also missing towering Opposite and former captain, Tom Edgar, who is taking a break from international competition.
Paul Carroll, fresh from helping his German team BR Volleys to an eighth national title this season, will lead the Volleyroos in their World League campaign.
Lebedew is well aware of the challenge ahead of him as he works to get the Volleyroos to next year’s World Championships and, ultimately, the Olympics in 2020.
“We have to be better in all areas, but the most important part of volleyball is the functioning of the team,” he said.
“The functioning of the team in all elements of the game is what decides matches and tournaments. This is especially vital for us, as we lack the number of world class players that some of our competitors have.
“In my career I have often been associated with teams who were able to achieve results higher than would be expected. This experience is what I hope to bring to the team.”
The Volleyroos have come together in Poland to prepare for what is shaping as a big year for the team, with Asian World Championship qualifiers to be played in Canberra straight after the World League.
The Volleyroos will play in Group Two of World League this year, with fixtures in Slovakia next weekend, followed by round-robin matches in Finland and China, before Australia host the group semi-finals on the Gold Coast from June 24.
Tonight will be the second trial match for the Volleyroos, after they lost 3-2 to Iran in Poland last week.