Volleyball WA recently caught up with Australian Helloworld Travel Volleyroos’ starting libero Luke Perry to chat about his career so far, his beginnings at Aquinas and the recent Volleyball Nations League.
On the surface a volleyball novice would be surprised to see a five foot nine player in the starting line-up of a national volleyball team. A game known for its towering players Luke Perry stands out for all the right reasons.
The superstar libero has been lighting up volleyball courts all over the world and recently surpassed his 150th game for Australia.
Returning to Aquinas College during his trip back to Perth, Luke opened up about how he got involved with volleyball. Perry revealed while his Year 8 cricketing career wasn’t off to a bad start, the lure of a trip to Melbourne in Year 9 for the Schools Cup proved to be too strong.
“My older brother played volleyball and he went on these trips to Melbourne for the Schools Cup at the end of the year. It sounded pretty fun at the time and I wasn’t too shabby at cricket, so I decided to give that up and try volleyball.”
Volleyball and Luke quickly became a winning combination for Aquinas and looked like a natural fit. Utilizing events like the Australian Schools Cup, Perry was forced to pick up the game quickly in order for the team to be successful.
“Volleyball is such a mental sport and you’ve got be pretty switched on. [Schools Cup] was key in building my confidence. Winning the Schools Cup was definitely a big thing for [me at the time] and was a big goal we accomplished as a team. I suppose it’s the first time I got to be the underdog and upset the favourites.”
The school’s sporting culture bolstered Perry’s passion for volleyball. Winning the Australian Schools Cup and a flawless final season with the Aquinas Firsts Team, Perry left Perth hungry for more.
“Being successful [at Aquinas] drove me to become better and try to get into higher teams. Try for the state teams, try for the Australian Juniors and it taught me to not put a ceiling on my goals.”
Incredibly Perry isn’t Aquinas’s only Volleryoos graduate. Out of the four current WA representatives in Australia’s top men’s team, three of them attended to Aquinas. Luke Smith, Samuel Walker and Perry all hail from the southern river school.
The pedigree of volleyball players has not diminished over the years with the Aquinas Firsts team taking out both the 2017 and 2018 PSA school titles. Talking with the team’s captains, Griffin Bateman and Samuel Hoskin, it would appear the schools green and gold standard has made its mark.
‘You want to live up to the hype [because] people talk about the quality of previous Aquinas teams and it is a pretty big legacy to match. It’s just exciting to think that three of the current Volleyroos all started here and now represent Australia as a top 20 team.” Bateman said.
“It’s definitely inspiring. It’s pretty rewarding to be able to live up to the reputation set by Luke’s First’s team.” Hoskin added.
When asked what advice he would give Bateman and Hoskins, Luke told the boys the one thing he learnt early on was you need to reach out and talk with as many people as possible.
“Volleyball players in Australia don’t have a clear pathway for becoming a professional or even getting into American colleges. So reach out to people and talk with them.”
While Aquinas undoubtedly instilled a passion for the sport, it would be fair to say that Australia’s recent Volleyball Nations League tested it. As part of the team, Perry played fifteen games over five weeks in five different countries. The taxing schedule saw Australia take out only five wins and had Australia face off against the world’s top 16 teams.
Perry is the first to admit the campaign did not play out as planned, however the competition offered a few shining moments ahead of the upcoming World Championships.
“Korea was a real highlight. [We won] three from three games which meant we left with maximum points for the weekend. Before that we were really disappointed with how we went. We dropped a few games we shouldn’t have and weren’t really satisfied with how we were playing.”
The inaugural FIVB event was played all over the globe, with Australia ending its campaign in Melbourne againstworld number one Brazil, Pan American champions Argentina and reigning world champions Poland. Unfortunately for the home side it wasn’t the fairy tale ending they wanted with the Volleyroos going down against all three teams.
“I guess we identified that we played some strong patches, a decent set here and there, but at the end of the day we are a professional team. We are ranked 15 in the world so we need to perform like that.”
Reflecting on the changing team dynamics Perry admits the Volleyroos are now more than an underdog team. Rising through the world rankings, Perry believes the growing focus on the mental game has and will turn things around for Australia.
“I think in the past we focused a lot more on the easier games and winning them. But these days it’s a new mentality, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the net. We focus on playing at a high level with the expectation that we can beat those higher ranked teams.”
While representing his country has been a priority for Perry, he has been kept busy with a string of fulltime professional contracts in Europe. Perry has enjoyed back to back success with his latest team the SCC Berlin. The team won both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 German Volleyball Championship over previous team VFB Friedrichshafen.
Volleyball’s larger profile in Europe means Perry’s recent trip to Melbourne for the Volleyball Nations League highlighted a stark comparison between the two sporting cultures.
“It’s pretty fascinating seeing the difference between countries, especially with things like sport. In Poland volleyball is as big as AFL is here, all of their sporting culture is based around volleyball and soccer. So coming back here and seeing how little attention is payed to volleyball is sort of sad.”
Perry will now enjoy a short break before returning to Australia’s east coast to start preparations for the 2018 World Championships.
“We have a month off and then we start preparing for World Champs. We’ll go into a training camp on the Gold Coast for three and half weeks, then we’ll do a pre-Championships tour of Europe and get a few games in.”
Talking about the aim for the World Championships, Perry is adamant the Volleyroos are ready to step up and make a statement on the world stage.
“We had a team discussion after our final Volleyball Nations League match in Melbourne. World Championships is the biggest event in Volleyball, bigger than the Olympics, so it’s cool be a part of it. But we want to prove to everyone and ourselves that we are a top 12 team, so that will be the aim for Italy.”
The 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship will be held in Italy and Bulgaria this September. To find out more click here.
Volleyball WA will be shinning a light on more of WA’s international representatives over the next few weeks. Be sure to stay tuned for our next edition when we catch up with Australian U20 rising star Tom Heptinstall.