Stellar season has Edgar ready to get Aussies to Rio

Published 15 April 2016 (AEDT)

Thomas Edgar celebrates a point in the match between Australia and Tunisia during the FIVB Men's Volleyball World Cup Japan 2015. © Getty Images

VOLLEYBALL: He is one of the world’s best at his position and another strong season abroad has Tom Edgar feeling confident he can lead Australia through the Olympic Qualifiers and into their second straight Games appearance in Rio.

Edgar recently finished the 2016 season with Beijing in China’s top division and was at his destructive best throughout competition.

So good was the 26-year-old’s performances, Edgar claimed the tournament’s most valuable player award.

“Personally I was very happy with my season in China, I really felt I grew as a player throughout the season,” the opposite spiker said.

“For me it's always very humbling to receive any awards or recognition for my personal performance.

“However as volleyball is based around the other six guys you are on court with, the result of the team has always been more important to me than individual honours.”

Unfortunately for Edgar and his team they couldn’t quite finish off the season as they would have hoped.

“During the regular season and the semi-finals we had a 21-1 record.

“Unfortunately during the final series vs Shanghai I think the pressure, expectation and toll of a physically demanding schedule led us to not being able to perform at our highest level which is disappointing.“

With the Chinese season wrapped up, Edgar had the choice to head to Europe or do what he thought was best for Australia’s hopes of Rio qualification.

“With the season finishing so early I have been granted a great and unique opportunity to rest, recover and prepare for the International season at home before joining the team.

“Although I had several options to join European clubs for their final series I thought it best to be in my best shape, physically and mentally for our qualifiers.”

Edgar’s full focus is now on the all-important Rio qualification tournament which begins in late May where Australia will face some of the world’s finest teams in Japan.

“Our qualification preparation is very difficult as a number of the European leagues do not finish until late April or early May. This does put at a disadvantage as our Asian competitors have already finished their professional commitments and are training as a squad at their national training centres.

“So the main focus for us for the 3-4 weeks that we will be preparing together will to renew our team chemistry and get some high quality competition as a squad before we head to Japan.” 

Despite these challenges, the Aussie superstar believes his team has what it takes to make the 2016 Games and get the chance to play in what is tipped to be one of the most popular events in Rio.

“I one hundred per cent think our team has the belief that we have the ability to qualify and be a threat in Rio.

“Even though we are almost a completely different to the team that qualified four years ago, only two out of our starting seven players were starters in the last qualification, I still believe that our destiny is in our hands and within our control.

“That being said it will be a very difficult tournament with seven matches over nine days against some of the world’s strongest teams, all of whom fighting for a ticket to the Olympics.”

While he was a part of the 2012 Olympic Team that impressed four years ago despite just missing out on the quarter-finals, Edgar is yearning to get back to sport’s greatest stage.

“Words wouldn't be able to describe that feeling of competing in Rio.

“Every time I pull on the Australian jersey I am both humbled and honoured to be representing my family and my country. But the Olympics is a completely different level, it's the pinnacle of sports and especially in Rio in which volleyball will be one of the most watched and publicised sports.”

The World Qualification Tournament begins on May 28 with the Aussies first assignment being against Iran on the opening night. They will then face Venezuela, Canada, France, hosts Japan, China and Poland in the eight-team round robin competition.

The top four ranked sides, unless no Asian side is inside the top four in which case the fourth place will be filled by the top ranked Asian side, will make Rio 2016.

The men’s volleyball competition runs from the opening day of competition to the final day and with the sport’s popularity in Brazil it is expected to be one of the highlights of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  

Matt Bartolo

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