The Richmond Mall Pines are sending two volleyball teams to the national club championship in Tauranga this week. The Pines have won the competition two years in a row. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Pines chase third national title

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The Richmond Mall Pines headed to Tauranga on Monday, chasing their third national title in as many years.

The Nelson Pines have won the Volleyball New Zealand Club Championship twice in the past two years, and while the bulk of the squad remains intact for this week’s competition, coach Colin Redpath isn’t expecting an easy ride. “Our aim is to win it, but the top three or four teams are definitely stronger this year, so we’ll have to be another step up,” he says.

Colin says there are about five different teams capable of winning the title this year, including perennial favourites Sparta, who compete out of Auckland, last year’s finalists Harbour Raiders, a team which his son Jack now plays for, hometown team Mauao Reds, and South Island rivals Shirley Silverbacks out of Christchurch.

The Nelson Pines squad is built around New Zealand captain Patrick Shone, who was last year’s MVP, and Ben Glue, who was named best spiker at the tournament last year. Just four of the squad live in Nelson — Patrick, Harry Fergusson, Josh Ovsenek and Teryn Proracki — but most of the others are former Nelson players now living in other parts of the country, while two of the squad have been brought in from Australia.

Colin says the team’s strength is their blocking ability and their championship record should give them plenty of confidence too. “We’ve got the best setter in the country and the best opposite in the country and we base the team around those two. But we’ve learnt how to win and that’s got to be a strength.”

With much of the squad based outside of Nelson, The Pines have held training sessions in Wellington and tried to organise as much competition as possible around the country. But the national championship will be the first time the full squad has been together, and he was excited to have the team at full-strength.

The major omissions from last year’s team are Ben O’Dea, who is now playing professionally in Europe, and Jack Redpath, who is living in Auckland and will turn out for Harbour.

The Nelson Pines volleyball club has received huge support from the community, and Colin says they are extremely grateful for the financial contribution of businesses, including major sponsors Richmond Mall, Spittal Development and Bayleys.
They will also be sending a B team, which will compete in division two, and is made up mainly of local secondary school players.

The Pines will play two games a day, and start their campaign against the Waitakere Rebels.