Volleying for funding

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 12:00 09/08/2012
NZ volley
JAMES GREENLAND
WELLINGTON SPIKERS: Ben Glue and Charlie Stewart of the New Zealand men’s indoor volleyball team.

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Two Wellington-based members of the national indoor volleyball team have said lack of funding and support has kept New Zealand from competing at the highest levels, such as at the Olympics.

Ben Glue, 25, and Charlie Stewart, 24, both joined the national men's team in 2007.

Both said they had spent upwards of $30,000 pursuing their elite goals, and this was about standard for New Zealand national players who mostly pay their own way.

'With New Zealand volleyball it's pretty individual. You have to do a lot of preparation yourself,' Stewart said.

'There is not enough exposure. It's not a high profile sport in New Zealand,' he said.

'It's almost like a chicken and egg situation. People follow teams that do well in the world, but we can't do well until people follow it and we get funding,' Glue said.

Volleyball New Zealand game development manager Warren Smith said indoor volleyball is definitely under-funded.

Smith said High Performance Sport New Zealand followed an investment-based model for funding allocation. It granted money to sports that were more likely to guarantee international success and cut support from those that could not.

'It is brutal, but it's all about allocating limited resources to where HPSNZ [High Performance Sport New Zealand] believes it will get the best 'bang' for its buck,' he said.

Smith said Volleyball New Zealand's draft development plan involved securing athletes international scholarships and professional contracts, so could benefit from overseas training and competition.

'Our national team will take a hit initially, but in the long run we will have better athletes returning to the country.'

'We have no problem generating quality athletes in New Zealand, we just don't have the money to train them,' he said.

The national men's team last month defeated Australia's ACT team 3-2 in a five match series that was part of preparation for the Oceania and World championships in 2013.

During the 1990s New Zealand was on a par with Australian indoor volleyball, Smith said.

Australia has competed at three of the last four Olympics, after securing a $1 million per year investment from Australian High Performance Sport.

Glue and Stewart played basketball and volleyball as young children, but volleyball won out.

Each has spent time in Canada on a volleyball scholarship, attending university and playing in the Canadian college league.

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Glue impressed talent scouts in Canada and used connections he made there to secure a professional contract in Sweden.

'They have a lot of money and time to focus on training, whereas in New Zealand it's always a struggle to balance work and volleyball, for all the players,' Glue said.

As well as working fulltime, Stewart and Glue played club volleyball for Nelson Pines, and trained three or four times a week in preparation for club nationals in Nelson this month.

- The Wellingtonian

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