Australia’s best beach volleyball minds have thought long and hard about how to break a two-Olympics drought and qualify a men’s team for Tokyo 2020, but Adelaide-based Western Australian, Cole Durant, believes it might take something a bit unorthodox.
The man with the limbs that go on for ever, earning him the nickname “Durantula”, has been playing top level beach volleyball for several years now, and has teamed up with fellow Adelaide-based Zachery Schubert for this summer and 2017.
The partnership got off to a great start, with the pair winning the NSW Open in December, and followed up with a second at the SA Open this month.
This weekend the Australian beach tour moves to the Gold Coast for the Queensland Open, and Durant is promising a few surprises.
“We are pushing an unorthodox, exciting and risky game style,” he said.
“We are trying to use only two contacts as much as possible, compared to the usual three, and then also trying to bring jump setting to the beach.
“We are also a very high energy and excitable team on court who show a little bit of man love here and there.”
There’s method to the madness of 25-year-old Durant and his 21-year-old partner. Under the direction of new national beach volleyball technical director, Victor Anfiloff, the pair have been encouraged to throw caution to the wind.
The thinking goes that after missing the past two Olympics, Australia needs to try something different to get a men’s team to Tokyo.
“I personally believe that our game style is something that will help us qualify for 2020,” Durant said.
“If we try to play classic old school volleyball against the seven-foot giants we will be in trouble. I believe we need to think out of the box and throw the whole world off.
“I think we need to be a little different, be trend setters and revolutionaries in the way we go about attacking the game. Sure its very risky and may not pay off, but we haven’t gone to the Olympics since 2008, so we’ve got nothing to lose.
“Let’s throw a curveball and try something a bit out there. If it comes off who knows what can happen.”
Durant is also emboldened by spending a year playing alongside beach volleyball veteran, Bo Soderberg.
As well as playing together on the Australian tour, Durant and 39-year-old Soderberg took their partnership on the road. Durant was like a sponge, absorbing the experience, the creativeness and the guile of the former Danish international.
“I learnt a lot playing with the veteran,” Durant said.
“We were fortunate enough to travel to some world tour events and I got to soak up some of Bo's wit and craftiness. The guy is a winner and is a very good problem solver in regards to volleyball, which was really useful to be around.”
Durant and Schubert have set themselves a goal of qualifying for this year’s Beach Volleyball World Championships in Vienna, mapping out a plan which will take them through major Asian tour events in Thailand, Indonesia and Qatar.
They also hope to make the podium on the World Tour, and to have enough good results to put them in the box seat for qualification for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
This weekend’s Queensland Open will provide a good early test. Damien Schumann and Joshua Court, who won every national title last summer, and have just moved to Adelaide to join the Volleyball Australia High Performance program, have similar dreams and goals.
Court and Schumann had to settle for bronze at the SA Open, their first tournament together this summer, and will be keen to get back into the winning groove this weekend.
The Queensland Open will be played at Surfers Paradise, starting Friday, with the men’s and women’s final on Sunday.