WA Steel’s young talents have AVL gold in their sights
With over twenty new recruits across the men and women’s team and a number of under-19 players in the rotations, the WA Steel franchise looks quite different in 2022.
Even men’s coach Ben Gray is making his official AVL season debut, having joined last year before the season was canceled. Assistant Coaches Rachel Trent and Desiree Tan will provide support from the sidelines and their experience across Youth and Junior State teams and the National Development Program will be crucial to support the growth of young talents in the roster. These include current Australian Volleyball Academy member Ben Farley and 18-year-old rising star Jed Walker.
The notable recruit in captain Kable Monck’s team is middle blocker José Martínez, a Mexican Olympian who has relocated from Victoria to live in Western Australia and has already made a splash in the WA Volleyball League with the ECU Chequers Men’s State League team. Martinez was part of the Mexican men’s national volleyball team who participated in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and will add valuable experience to the WA Steel’s young mix.
The Steel women’s side is also focused on team chemistry as 12 players have either joined the roster for the first time or are returning from years prior to the 2019 season. Their 20-strong squad features many up-and-coming 18-year-old players, with Lizzie Alchin, Tully Bew, Yun Han Wong and Alexia Zammit all having made their debuts in the AVL this year.
Volleyroos middle-blocker Tessa Browne might be an easy pick for the role of marquee player, even though she is not the only member of the Australian national squad in the roster. Outside hitter Caitlin Whincup is the youngest Steel player at just 17 years of age, but has already been selected in the Volleyroos for their tour of Thailand earlier this year. She returns to the Steel for a second season and will be one the biggest assets at Head Coach Pauline Manser’s disposal, as the WA franchise tries to challenge the Melbourne Vipers’ dominance in the women’s AVL.
Manser knows how the job is done as she coached the WA Pearls through three AVL titles in a row between 2009-11 alongside current Assistant Coach Laurel Wentworth. The other Assistant Coach Dylan Wood is fresh off a gold medal with the U18 Girls at the Youth Championships and will also provide insight into how to best integrate so many developing players into the rotation.
The WA Steel might be a young team full of promise, but that’s not reason enough to rule them out of contention for the 2022 AVL title. Motivation is high in the Steel camps and Head Coach Laurel has already indicated that they are “absolutely going for gold”.