Last year was the team’s World Grand Prix debut when they competed as part of the Oceania development programme and finished seventh in Group 3. They did not win a match but took a set off Croatia and two off Kenya. Even if results do not improve on those of last year, Australia are guaranteed a place in Group 3’s Final Four as they host the four matches in their capital, Canberra. They get their campaign under way over 12,000km away in Kazakhstan.
The team have been competing in the Asian Championships for 40 years and the fourth-place finishes achieved in 1975 and 1979 remain their highest in the competition. Their most recent result was a ninth-place finish in 2013. The Volleyroos did not qualify for the 2014 World Championship in Italy, but the team have taken part in the tournament twice, coming 12th in 1982 and equal-21st in 2002. They received welcome exposure when they competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, finishing equal-ninth, but coach Mark Barnard has his sights on Tokyo 2020 instead of next year’s tournament in Rio. Two experienced players, Tara West and Olivia Orchard, have retired this year, and the team’s most experienced player, Rachel Rourke, may not be available until the Final Four.