The Phoenix are forging a new identity for volleyball in NSW
Much in the vein of their eponymous mythological bird, this year the NSW Phoenix franchise are all about forging a new identity for volleyball in NSW.
With some exciting additions bringing new strength to the teams after the two-year COVID-19 break, the franchise was looking forward to seeing their athletes finally represent the Phoenix indoors, and showcase the team spirit and determination which have been established as the cornerstones of their team culture. A philosophy that extends to the junior teams, as displayed in the epic five-set battles sustained by NSW teams in the gold medal matches of the last Australian Junior Volleyball Championships.
The Phoenix women’s team has shown moments of brilliance during the 2022 AVL season behind the leadership of captain and Volleyroos’ opposite Laura Reeks. The Phoenix success is based on team effort, but some individual performances stood out, as Marisa Ogasawara from Japan proved to be a solid libero and Sylvia Musel and Matauaina Gibbons two young guns with some serious swing.
In the men’s team, new recruit Reilly Keogh and Head Coach Chris Todd’s move from Queensland to New South Wales contributed to fueling the classic rivalry with the Sunshine State squad, although the Pirates still managed to take the win in both matches during round 2 this season. Ben Genenger from Germany is another notable player on the roster, and the second international player of the franchise, alongside Ogasawara.
Perhaps even more than the women’s team, the men’s squad has focused on getting better every week and learning what is required to compete at AVL level. Two wins on the road in the last round showed that the future looks promising for the Phoenix men’s team, with Josh Hillard providing solid defence and big hitters Sean Bosschieter and Robbie Murdoch developing their game – and already outstanding athletic abilities – behind Volleyroos’ outside hitter Tim Taylor.
With two rounds still to be played and a 10-point gap to close in the standings to reach a top four placement, it might be too late for the men’s team to make a run for the Finals. On the contrary, a spot in the top-4 is very much a possibility for the women’s team, who currently sit in fourth place with a 5-point lead over Canberra in fifth.
What’s certain is that the Phoenix won’t go down without a fight. A place in the AVL Grand Finale would be terrific recognition that the franchise is working in the right direction, laying the foundation for a future built on strong character and desire to improve. As Women’s Coach Max Gubbiotti said to his players earlier in the season, the Phoenix focus this year is not just on winning and losing. “On this journey we are focused on winning and learning,” he said.