Having dominated the 2015/16 summer, Joshua Court and Damien Schumann will start red hot favourites for this weekend’s Australian beach volleyball tour finals at Sydney’s Manly Beach.
But that form will count for little as the cream of Australia’s beach volleyball talent line up to stake their claim for possible Olympic selection later this year.
Breathing down the necks of Court and Schumann will be second seeds Cole Durant and Bo Soderberg, two-time Asian champions and Australia’s top-ranked international team of Chris McHugh and Isaac Kapa, and 3-time Olympian Josh Slack and Casey Grice.
Manly sisters Alice and Johannah Rohkamper will be the team everyone will be watching carefully in the women’s draw.
Even though the former internationals are seeded well down in eighth position, no players know the sands of Manly Beach better than the Rohkampers, highlighted by their win in the NSW Open at the same venue last month.
London Olympian Becchara Palmer and former Manly player, Sarah Battaglene, are the top ranked team, while second seeded Europeans Michaela Vorlova and Lucia Michalovicova will be looking to add to their consistent performances over the Australian summer.
Sydneysider Christie Jenkins and American Brittany Tiegs have also enjoyed a strong summer, while Queensland sisters Jordan and Justine Mowen will be looking to make their mark ahead of Olympic qualifiers later in the year.
Australia’s top two women’s teams, Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy, and Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, are currently in Brazil and will miss this weekend’s finals.
Court and Schumann have not put a foot wrong all summer, winning the Australian Open and the NSW, WA, VIC, SA and QLD Opens.
“We’ve been lucky enough to find some consistency at the right time in a few games,” Schumann said.
“There’s still lots we need to improve on as a team for sure, which we’re working on. At no stage have we felt comfortable in any of the games we’ve played because everyone’s playing so well.”
The top teams this weekend will also be keen to build their form ahead of the Asian Championships to be held at Manly Beach the following weekend.
The events are part of the inaugural Manly Volleyfest, which will also include a four-nation U21 competition featuring teams from Japan, USA, Brazil and Australia starting on Monday.
The Australian tour finals start this Friday, March 18, with the finals on Sunday, March 20.
The Asian Continental Olympic qualifiers will be held in Australia in June.