Anendra Singh: Taking volleyball to new heights

By Anendra Singh

No sweat, actually, if you're the uninitiated looking from the outside.

But, understandably, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.

Just throw in a few babes sporting bum jandals, piercings and hackneyed tattoos in strategic parts of the torso such as the midriff, shoulder blade and cleavage.

Have the players slip on snazzy sunglasses and pump up the volume with some pop music to get the crowd in the mood.

Voila! Volleyball, or any other code for that matter, should start basking in the gargantuan success of their cousins masquerading as athletes in bikinis at the London Olympic Games.

But Volleyball Hawke's Bay regional manager Gemma Carlisle, who took over in April, will tell you the naked truth is not that simple.

"It would split the team," says Carlisle, who is also the vice-captain of the Hastings Rugby and Sports Club team who have qualified for the division one (12-team) New Zealand Volleyball Championship in Nelson from August 22-25.

"Half of them would do it because they love the sport, others have their beliefs [including religious ones] and another group will just not be comfortable with it," the 27-year-old mother of three says.

Besides, Carlisle points out the indoor attire of tight cycling shorts and tank tops are "more revealing than any other sport".

They have more pressing domestic issues, as it were, to iron out.

What, she believes, is more frustrating is isolating pedigree players.

"Volleyball, in general, does not have the best players in New Zealand," Carlisle says.

It boils down to who has money to go to representative tournaments. To put it in perspective, Hastings Boys' High School player Danya Tulou had to raise $3500 to travel as a member of the New Zealand Junior men's team to Rangoon, Burma, for a tournament from August 17-29.

The Hastings club team, however, will be flying the provincial flag on debut at the nationals. They qualified for division one after a series of wins, including ones against rivals Massey (Palmerston North) and Rongotai (Wellington).

Carlisle and veteran Jo Lucas pretty much hatched the fledgling Hastings side at a meeting in 2010 following nationals staged in Bay, which now boasts 1500 players including children and social graders.

"With only the Napier Volleyball Club running the social competition we decided to branch out."

The four-team Bay league is an inaugural one, with a predominantly rugby flavour to it with Hastings Rugby, Napier, Clive Rugby and Sports and MAC locking horns.

Flaxmere College PE teacher Lucas organised and started the league.

Carlisle says Hastings club embraces players from varying backgrounds who do not necessarily have affiliations with the rugby players.

Lucas and Jodi Edwards are the oldest at 41 while Hastings Girls' High School pupil Faalagi Sieni Oli is 15.

Malcolm Nicholson, of Hastings, is coach and co-selector while Peet Lichtenberg, of Napier, is manager.

The goal is to make the top six at nationals, thus ensuring they have an automatic entry next season with other teams such as the composite New Zealand Institute of Sport and Manukau South.

"Our main goal is to deliver the sport on to a national stage."

To show they mean business, Volleyball HB are taking on marquee codes such as netball, rugby and soccer by staging their competition on Saturdays.

"We're taking them head on so people have to make a choice," Carlisle says, adding volleyball also have pencilled in afternoon hockey competitions.

While volleyball risk losing players they will take comfort in the knowledge those who are there are committed to the cause.

"My goal is to develop volleyball in all aspects of the sport from youth through to adults," says Carlisle, an ex-Taradale High School pupil who was a regular soccer player for Eskview Blue (division one) but now only helps when coach Viv Moule sends out an SOS.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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