The 3rd Asia-Pacific Outgames being held in Darwin, NT have been a great successful journey for the FZ Pistons Volleyball Team. We have come to the competition and walked away with not just one gold medal but quite a bag of them. The journey has taken us to more than just volleyball courts and had us exploring all sorts of new activities and bonding with new friends and creating friendships, which is so in keeping with the spirit of these games and the event.
FZ Pistons have walked away with a Gold Medal in the men’s volleyball competition after 3 days of play. A straight slam of all pool play saw the Pistons as odds on favourites to take out the Gold medal, and they did so with a convincing win in straight sets at the Marrara International Sports Stadium.
The teams of the competition were small in number with two teams from Melbourne, one team from Adelaide and one team from local Northern Territory players. Pistons made up the 5th team. The games during the pool play meant each team played each other once. Pistons had the fortune of arriving in Darwin early and only a single game on the first day against the Melbourne Spikers. On Day 2 we had 2 games at either end of the playing day, Ball Busters (from Melbourne) in the morning slot and Spike-a-roo’s (from the NT) in the final afternoon slot.
At the end of the 2 days we were not only undefeated but had not dropped a single set in the competition, winning each of our games convincingly. The 2nd set against the NT Spike-a-roo’s was a close fought battle as they changed their hitting rotation and had their big hitter Jason swinging from the outside. His cross court spiking had us working very hard in the back court to get the cracking balls flying at us up to our setter and the NT boys had us level pegged for much of the set. Some massive hitting from Stuart Mackay from the outside and some oh so delicate tipping from Laurent Auclair in the middle saw Pistons edge away just when they needed to and secure the set at 25/19. But we knew that we were most likely going to meet these guys again in the final so were ready for playing against them the following day.
Our final day began against our sister club Adelaide Spikers, who really had to ‘throw’ a team together as they lost a player right on the tournament. They pulled in one of the local volunteers who proved to be a darn right ‘thorn in our side’, getting balls constantly up and even challenging our blockers with accurate hitting. Girlfriend was FIERCE. But we did keep our ‘straight sets’ record in tact and moved into the Gold Medal match at 3pm on the Wednesday.
After the Bronze medal match between the two Melbourne teams which saw Melbourne Spikers win in straight sets over the Ball Busters (featuring an old Freezoner Mick Jansen) we stepped up to begin the game against the Spike-a-roo’s. Quite a crowd had gathered for the match and you could feel that there was support for the underdogs. Having an audience always creates an interesting vibe on court and we had to knuckle and focus on just our side of the court as the final began.
The initial stages of the 1st set saw the Pistons in the unfamiliar position of ‘trailing’ our opponents as the Spike-a-roo’s made a solid start with penetrating hits and solid ‘jousting’ at the net. It would appear that the Pistons had to really settle into their groove and find their rhythm in the final. Colin Chan was working hard to set from all over the court as the Pistons were just a little ‘shy’ with passing and court play. ‘Shefu’ really had to settle the boys down and ‘fake the confidence’ to get the rhythm back. Without getting away to a start, the boys had to try and make the most of their opportunities in the early stages and the ‘Roos’ were giving nothing away with effective passing and some good setting, leading the Pistons solidly. The Pistons came close to a ‘time-out’ but just when the lead started to slip away, the Pistons would win the point back and stay within three points of the Roo’s.
Then – enter Adam Ferret to the serving position and an amazing 15point run of straight serves to the Spike-a-Roo’s court. Slowly building the momentum with some clever placed serves at weaker passers and taking out the momentum of the opponents hitters, Pistons, began to find their rhythm and their power again – notably from Rafael Montellanos who began to ramp up from the outside and James Cai who began making solid points ‘tooling’ off the block from the right side attack. His hitting was getting more daring and stronger as Pistons built a solid 22-12 lead. After the ‘Roos’ won a single point, the Pistons closed out the set convincingly with some oh so delicate tipping from Laurent Auclair in the middle.
The second set was a build of momentum from the start. it was Rafael Montellanos who built on the serving with a solid streak of accurate serving deep into the Roos court and taking Pistons away to a lead of 3-4 points. Now the groove was worn and the sets began to flow freely from Shefu as he used his outside and quicks through the middle to beat the block that was stifling the Pistons attack in the first set. The Sydney-siders got their groove on and started running away with the set. The hits that were passing before were now getting shut down and the crowd could feel the set running away. Pistons lead solidly all set and shut the Spike-a-roo’s down at 25/10 in the final set, taking the tournament Gold without having dropped a single set for the duration of the tournament.
At the medal presentations it was also very exciting to have MVP’s awarded by the local Northern Territory State Volleyball hosts. Each duty team was asked to provide votes for best Hitter, Blocker, Setter and Server for their game. And Rafael Montellanos was voted best server for the tournament.
Overall the Pistons couldn’t have been happier with the results. As always we are very proud to acknowledge the support of Freezone and our main sponsor ACON in assisting the team and competing under the FREEZONE/ACON labels. We also received some praise for our ‘team cameraderie’ which can also be attributed to our coaches, Bob and Oscar Konakoff (along with Joe Seidleman from Baulkham Hills Volleyball).
As an aside, the Games have actually brought about more than just volleyball. On our first day in Darwin, we went down to take a look at the Dragon Boat Racing and spend a morning by the water, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. James Cai being a Different Strokes member ended up jumping in a boat and even offered to get the Pistons into a boat to ‘have a paddle’ Well – this ended up being more than a paddle. All of a sudden Pistons were part of a motley crew of novice paddlers who after a single lesson in how to stroke and more importantly, how to stop, were thrust into competition against other novice rowers.
Our first ‘race’ was an interesting affair in understanding how to stroke ‘in time’ but we shattered our opponents with surprising aplomb cruising over the line in convincing style. so we were then thrown in the mix and asked to row again in another race against another two teams. This team the shirts were off and we were flexing our muscles in the sunshine and focussed on grunting away. We even got down to tactical placement of rowers in the boat putting our resident rhythm keepers (James Cai and myself) at the front to keep the crew ‘in order’. Once again we blew our opponents out of the water and even our ‘sweep’ was impressed with our application to the race. What we didn’t realise when we left for the afternoon was that the Pistons had actually won a GOLD MEDAL. Which James Cai presented to us at lunch that day – so we had won something without even having stepped foot on a volleyball court!
The Pistons picked up a supporter and fellow competitor Scott McCabe who provided some impressive achievements on the track picking up Gold in the 100m, 400m and Long Jump and a silver medal in the 200m. In true Pistons style, we couldn’t pass up our own opportunity to ‘have a crack’ at something, and when they began asking for anyone else who might be interested in competing in events, all of a sudden the Pistons were everywhere with Laurent Auclair running the 400m and only missing out on a medal by the barest sprint at the last 15 meters. James Cai doubled this effort in the 3000m running a solid 4th place in the hot Darwin evening. But the real surprise was Stuart Mackay and Peter Furness, who thought they would give a try at some field events.
Far from the hand-bag throwing at the pool party, the boys decided to have a crack at the discus and hammerthrow. After some very swift education by Nola (a lovely 72yo field athlete) and Olivia (Outgames Athletics co-ordinator), we were ready to unleash ourselves on the throwers circle. Your truly walked away with a Silver in Discus and Bronze in Hammer, after falling out of the circle on his first attempt (video footage to follow), but the success belonged to Stuart Mackay who threw a whopping 19.08m in Discus and 20.7m in Hammer (which is no mean feat to understand how to do) to take GOLD in both events. Not bad for a night at the track!
So now we are off to unwind our wigs and kick up our heels in the Darwin nightlife! The games are still going and many of the athletes have wound up their competition so now it is down to the social aspects of post competition and enjoying the freedom of the Northern Territory winter! See you on the other side Sydney!