Tokyo, Japan, May 25, 2016 – By any measure, Australia’s Paul Carroll has had a pretty satisfying past 12 months.
He became a dad for the first time, reached the significant milestone of turning 30, and his Berlin Volleyball Club, his adopted home for the best part of the past decade, has swept all before them both domestically and throughout Europe.
But there’s one part of the jigsaw that is still missing – a ticket to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. While several of his teammates played in London four years ago, Carroll missed out.
This time round he’s probably the most determined player on the team.
This weekend Carroll and his Volleyroo teammates begin the final trek to Rio, an Asian qualifying tournament in Tokyo that has also drawn world heavyweights like Poland and France.
Australia’s task is straight forward; finish as the best Asian team, and the ticket is theirs.
It may be straight forward, but it is not simple. Iran is there, so are China and Japan. Four tickets are up for grabs, and at least one has to go to one of the Asian teams.
The team has been together for a couple of weeks in Italy preparing. It makes a lot of sense, as nearly the entire Australian squad plays for clubs around Europe.
“Everyone’s pretty amped up. I think we’re pretty confident going into Japan,” Carroll said.
“It’s coming together reasonably quick. We still need to improve to get to the level we want to get to, but we are right on track.
“It’s seven matches in nine days, but we have a team that has guys who can come in off the bench. And we are all in great physical shape.”
While Australia’s form in the past 12 months has lacked consistency, the team has a significant advantage for this Olympic campaign – former captain, Aidan Zingel.
Zingel sat out last year, but has re-joined the team and Carroll believes he will make a significant difference.
“Zingel is going to be a massive advantage for us,” he said.
“He’s a world class middle with an incredible amount of experience. He’s so constant at such a high level, and such a great role model for the younger middles.
“He’s the kind of player who makes everyone around him a lot better.”
Australia opens their campaign against Iran on Saturday. The result could go a long way towards determining which Asian team will finish on top, but Carroll said the team does not want to focus too much on that game.
“I think the best things for us to do is treat every match the same,” he said.
“If we put too much weight on a single match, and if that match doesn’t go to plan, we have to back up the next day.
“But we did beat Iran comfortably last year, 3-0 in the World Cup.”
Australia’s games will all be shown live on Fox Sports as well as on the FIVB YouTube channel.