Leaving on Sunday 15 September to play professionally for Finnish team Vaasan Kiitso, Matt Hender took time out to visit the Volleyball WA office on Friday to tell us what is in store for him.
“I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge”, he told us.
Over the summer, Hender has been in contact with teams in Holland and Switzerland. When the offer from Finland came through it was a better move strategically. His new team, Vaasan Kiitso is based in the town of Vassa, three hours from Helsinki and is currently at the top of Division 2 and is looking for promotion at the end of the season.
If Vaasan Kiitso are promoted, and Hender is still playing with them next season then he will be playing in one of the top teams in Europe.
“There is a strong emphasis on winning and being promoted. As one of two international players, there will be a lot of pressure on me, but it is an exciting challenge”.
Since he arrived back in Perth at the end of the northern summer, Hender has been back and forth between Perth and the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra a number of times for team trials, notably for the World University Games and the U23 national squads. Unfortunately he didn’t make those teams.
“Trialling and not being selected has kept the fire going”, said Hender.
“It makes me more determined to succeed”.
Hender, facing his fourth consecutive winter, credits his family and friends with keeping him on the right path.
“My parents make it clear that it is up to me to make my own decisions about playing, about university and living and playing overseas. But there are occasions when I think it might be less risky, or easier to come back to Perth to study full time and to finish University like a lot of my friends are doing, and they remind me about the opportunities that I have.
A lot of people will tell you that you can’t do things, but I am surrounded by family and friends who tell me I can do things, and I really value that”.
The Australian men’s volleyball team placed first and booked the ticket to the 2014 FIVB World Championship at the Asian Men’s final qualification round for the World Championships that were played in Canberra last weekend. Hender sees this as a sign that the standard of volleyball in Australia is increasing and that volleyball is becoming more popular. He noted that the finals were broadcast live on Fox Sports.
Hender will play his first game of the season in Finland in three weeks.
Matthew attended Rossmoyne Senior High School where he competed in five Australian School Cup’s. He also played with the Western Australian State team in the Australian Junior Volleyball Championships, winning bronze and silver medals. He returned to Perth in April this year after a successful season playing for the Swedish Pro team, Södertälje VBK.
Image: VWA Executive Director, Robyn Kuhl pictured with Matt Hender.