Volleyroos aim high at World League
11 July 2014
VOLLEYBALL: Volleyball superstar Aidan Zingel wants to make the most of Australia's first World League appearance in 15 years.
Not just to deliver the nation a historic result, but use it to build a future for the sport and its bank of talented youngsters.
And, so far, it's working.
Since beginning their campaign in May, most of the Volleyroos have received offers to play for clubs in the tournament's host countries.
"It's creating a lot of interest amongst the players that wouldn't get any exposure without this tournament," captain Zingel told AAP ahead of Friday night's group semi-final against the Netherlands at Sydney Olympic Park.
"It's very difficult for us to play overseas professionally.
"That's the reason we're competing in it. It gets us out there; it creates some popularity of the sport in Australia.
"We're trying to do the best thing we can for our sport and for the players as well.
"This is a huge pathway to achieving that."
At least a dozen of the 22-man squad don't have professional contracts, but are committed to training year-round in Canberra.
Around five - including Zingel - play in some of the world's best leagues, earning anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 or more a season, while a handful of others are toiling away in the US or Canadian college system.
"But we're hoping to change that," Zingel said.
The 14th-ranked Volleyroos have only once before featured in the World League - in 1999.
Despite finishing bottom of their group at the end of the preliminary round, they were guaranteed a semi-final berth after Sydney was granted the right to host the event.
But last week, they made history by completing their first clean sweep in the annual tournament over world No.11 Canada - minus injured Olympians Nathan Roberts and Travis Passier.
The two victories have provided the men's team a timely shot in the arm, having suffered a whitewash at the hands of debutants Belgium a week earlier.
A win over the Dutch on Friday would secure them a place in the decider against France or Belgium on Saturday.
The winner will then join Italy, Olympic gold medallists and defending champions Russia, Brazil, USA and Iran in Florence for the overall finals next week.
"We're ready to perform," said Zingel.
"We've got a bit of confidence because we've played so many matches against the Netherlands before.
"We've just got to have the passion and the belief like we did against Canada."
The Volleyroos are using the league as part of their preparation for the world championships in Poland in September, with one eye on the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"But in coming years, we're not going to use it just as a preparation tournament - we're going to play and win.
"It's soon to be part of our expectations for the team, I think."