Judging by the crowd which turned out to watch the final training session on a balmy Australian spring evening in Shepparton, the return of the FIVB World Tour downunder is set to be a roaring success.
It may have been at least 14 hours until the first Mikasa is hit in anger this weekend, but the enthusiasm of the crowd watching the Australians and internationals going through their final work-outs set the scene for a thrilling weekend.
It has made the Greater Shepparton Mayor, Dinny Adem, a very happy man.
“Without doubt this is a fantastic event for Greater Shepparton,” Mayor Adem said.
“When I look around this site and see all these international flags, I see what a perfect fit this is with our constituents of Greater Shepparton.
“I would suspect there will be some home ground support for every country that’s represented here. I’m just over the moon about the whole event.”
When Volleyball Australia tested the water to see if there was interest in bringing the World Tour back to Australia for the first time since 2008, there was no group more enthusiastic than Greater Shepparton City Council in country Victoria.
A picturesque town with plentiful open spaces, waterways and the beautiful Victoria Park Lake, it’s a setting which has won the praise of the international players.
Mayor Adem is hoping that message gets spread far and wide.
“It’s the international television coverage that this event will generate,” he said.
“Greater Shepparton is trying to assert ourselves as the major sporting capital of not just regional Victoria, but also regional Australia.
“This event puts us at the forefront of that, and of major events worldwide, and will be a major catalyst for future events.”
Australia is a country famous for its beaches, so it’s probably not a surprise that this weekend will be the first time a major beach volleyball event has been held in a land-locked city.
But Volleyball Australia CEO, Mathieu Meriaux, said he’s certain it won’t be the last time.
“It’s the first time since 2008 that Australia has hosted a World Tour event,” Mr Meriaux said.
“The Greater Shepparton City Council has been fantastic, pushing to bring the event here and giving the athletes a chance to play in front of their home crowd.
“From a patch of grass to a stadium with signage and sand, the transformation has been incredible. I’m sure this will be the start of a great relationship.”
The FIVB World Tour event, the first one-star event of 2017, is a single elimination competition featuring 16 mens and 16 women’s teams. It starts Saturday morning, Australian time, and finishes Sunday afternoon.