At 41, Brendon Heath is a veteran. He knows he doesn’t have too many years of competitive volleyball left in him.
So for the Cook Islander to have the chance to play in front of family and friends in a prestigious International Volleyball Federation World Beach Volleyball Tour tournament – right here in Rarotonga – is just enormous.
His wife Kelly will be watching. So too will be his sons Tamati, 6, Kiva, 4, and his baby daughter Amelia, aged only four months.
“This is a world tour event,” he said last night. “There’s never been one in the Pacific outside of Australia.
“Sometimes you just hope you can do it justice. My three kids will be there for the first time, down there supporting me. I don’t have too many years left playing so I always hoped they’d have a chance to see me play.”
Heath is teamed up with Raiti Herman, who is 17 years old and has never before played at this level.
“I guess there’s always some nerves there – and this is me and Raiti’s first time playing together. He’s got a lot more youth than me – so hopefully he’ll go on to new strengths from here.”
They will be joined in the main draw by a second pairing, of Raiti’s brother Toa Herman and Arvi Enoka.
Cook Islands Volleyball president Hugh Graham said the one-star tour event had been a longheld dream: “We have been trying to get this to be hosted in Raro for a couple of years,” he said from Japan.
Graham is in Tokyo, officiating as technical delegate at the indoor men’s volleyball qualifiers for Asia/Oceania. He will return on Monday, just the day before the tour event hits off.
He said they had confirmed 19 teams from nine countries: Australia, Canada, Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Tuvalu and USA.
The tournament runs from January 14-17 at Cook Islands Volleyball Beach Courts, in Nikao. Cook Islands is one of just 16 countries hosting one-star World Beach Volleyball Tour events this year.
“We have experienced some challenges and will continue to confronted by more challenges,” Graham admitted.
“This is expected: we are making history not only for the Cook Islands, but for the Pacific.
“This will be the first time (outside of Australia) that a Pacific country will host such a prestious event. We will make mistakes but this is how we will learn and make the future events even better and more attractive.”
Graham said it had been a challenge to secure sponsors, for a new event. He thanked Bluesky, CISNOC, Cook Islands Tourism, Polynesian Rental Cars, BCI, Edgewater, Vaima Water and the government for their support.
They were short of volunteers, he said, and he invited people to be part of the historic event by putting up their hands.
To volunteer, contact Kaitini Herman (mob 72886) or CISNOC on 24095.