The new captain of the Australian volleyball team, Kiama’s Aidan Zingel says the Volleyroos days of flying under the radar ended after a giant-killing performance at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The comment came as he prepares to lead the Australians through the first qualifying leg of the 2014 Volleyball World Championships in Canberra today.
The Australians will carry the rare tag of favouritism into the Asian World Cup qualifying tournament where they’ll face teams from Kuwait, Kazakhstan and Thailand.
On the line is a single place in the 2014 Volleyball World Cup in Poland next year.
The host nation will certainly not be taking the Australians lightly after the Volleyroos stunned them 3-1 in one of the biggest upsets in volleyball history at the London Olympics.
‘‘Even now it’s hard to believe that we’re ranked 11 in the world,’’ Zingel said from camp in Canberra.
‘‘With what we had to do to just qualify for the Olympics and with everything that was stacked against us.
‘‘We were ranked No22 or 23 in the world and of all the teams at the Olympics we were ranked the second-lowest ahead of Great Britain. While we always had our own feeling from within the team that we could get there, looking back at it from the outside it’s still hard to believe.’’
Many thought the Volleyroos would just make up the numbers at the Olympics before they put the other nations on notice with a close five-set loss to Italy. However, it was the unlikely win over Poland that really turned heads.
‘‘We were 2-0 up against Italy and ended up losing in five sets by only two points but the Poland game was amazing. They were the World League Champions, they were ranked No3 in the world so certainly in my time it was the best win we’ve ever had.’’
Zingel since assumed the leadership of the team which lost a few experienced campaigners as they seek World Cup qualification.
‘‘It (captaincy) was a bit of a shock,’’ he said.
"It's an honour I didn't really expect, but our previous captain Igor Yudin retired just prior to our tour of Brazil and we needed someone to take over."
Yudin was one of five players to leave the team post-Olympics and, though expected to win this weekend's Asian qualifying tournament, Zingel says his young side cannot afford complacency.
"While we're confident we're certainly not overly confident. Our average age across the team was 23 at the Olympics and now that's fallen to 21 so there's been significant changes in the team and some of our most experienced players have moved on."
Should the Australians progress, as expected, this weekend Zingel says his team can no longer rely the element of surprise when facing high quality rivals in Poland next year.
"Yeah that's definitely gone, but there's still a lot to happen before then and we'll still be very much the underdogs."