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Volleyball Horsham conducts competitions across six grades – “A”, “B” and Primary School on Wednesday evenings and juniors, women and “C” grades on Monday evenings at St Brigids College stadium in Robinson Street.

Volleyball Horsham has a strong relationship with schools in the region in the provision of coaching and clinics for teachers and students. If schools require assistance at anytime contact David Berry on 0487824599.

Volleyball Horsham has strong relationships with Sunraysia Volleyball Association, Bendigo Volleyball Association and Volleyball Ballarat with the formation of the Western Phantoms State League club. Volleyball Horsham is highly respected in both State and National circles highlighted by the Association’s hosting of international matches and series involving Australia, New Zealand and Japan Panasonic.

When did it start?

My discussions with people in Horsham tell me that volleyball started in Horsham in 1976. The game was played at the basketball stadium during the winter months, which assisted with the financing of the basketball stadium, which had just undergone a rebuild. In those early days there was no basketball played in winter due to football and netball commitments, so court time was readily available. Teams were based around workplaces like Coles, CRB and schools.

Who was responsible?

I am lead to believe the people responsible for starting volleyball in Horsham were John Mibus, Gary Bird and Trevor McDonald. Ladies involved in the early days include Tess Yeo, Trish Brickell, Pat Williams and Jenny Chaston.

The early days?

History shows that CRB were the dominant men’s team of the early days. Lead by Mick Stirrat, Robert Block, Leigh Doolan and Peter Miller, no team really threatened CRB in a run of four premierships in five years. Celtic, Oddities and Tweeties were the dominant women’s teams. The teams were quite adult orientated, with very few youngsters playing the game.

The 80’s?

Volleyball in Horsham got turned on its head when Alan Cleaver moved to Horsham from Bendigo in 1980/81. Cleaver had a very successful career in Bendigo being one of that Association’s leading players. Cleaver moved to Horsham and gained employment at Wimmera Office and School Supplies as a computer technician. He was able to gather together two teams from his workplace. I moved to Horsham in the summer of ’81 after completing HSC at Bendigo Secondary College. My family was already in Horsham at the time, so I hooked up with my brother, and we managed to get a few of his mates together and formed a Horsham College team, which we called Kurri, which was an aboriginal word that meant “the very first.” The hope was to establish the very first volleyball club in Horsham, which we did with success. I started playing in 1982 and there were 12 men’s teams and 7 women’s teams playing. We were lucky enough to end CRB’s run of premierships, which we were pretty happy about. The winning team being myself, my brother Rodney Berry, Graeme Ross, Donald Landrigan, (both students) Terry Hutton and Dave Finkemeyer (teachers). Little did we know that volleyball in Horsham was about to begin a massive transformation, from the social game experienced by the foundation teams, to a more modern and sophisticated game of the era.

In 1983 Rhys Alexander came to Horsham and established the Midnight club, while Cleaver linked himself with teachers from the Tech School. This saw an explosion of kids into the game, and the establishment of “A” and “B” grades, and some girls began to play in the women’s competition, which ultimately spelt the end of those foundation women players as the younger girls completely dominated. Kurri was able to win all three premierships on offer.

It was during this year the Association affiliated with Volleyball Victoria and became incorporated. A constitution similar to the Bendigo model was adopted, and bylaws also from the Bendigo Association were put in place. Cleaver took over from Jenny Chaston as president of the Association and I supported him. Two kids named David Abud and Darren Franks started to play. These two would go onto play state volleyball and eventually represent Australia and become two of the greatest players Victoria had seen, as they linked up with the Heidelberg Volleyball Club.

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In 1984 the game exploded with more kids playing than adults, and with the exposure the game received via the Los Angeles Olympics, for the first time two seasons were held. The second season was staged at the Ian Maroske Hall, with a Sunday grand final played at the basketball stadium. It was at this time the Association started to be taken notice of by other Associations around the state. A men’s team came runners up in Men’s Division 2 at the Country Championships beaten by Seymour. A kid called Michael Brack made the state under 15 team.

In 1985 the Association established relations with Ararat, which saw teams reciprocate by playing in each others domestic competitions. This partnership saw a men’s team compete in the Country Championships in Albury and finish fourth in division 1. As the first three teams declined invitations to compete in the National Country Championships held in Wagga, we took up the invitation to compete, and were lucky enough to come home with the gold medal. The winning team being David Berry, David Abud, Rodney Berry, Darren Franks, Bruno Grosso, Adam Harris, Colin Jones, Geoff Dunmore and Peter Skrabl.

1n 1986 I moved to Melbourne with work and the Association was left to run in the hands of my brother and his mates. The young committee tried hard but didn’t have the expertise or experience to continue the growth of the sport. Competition was moved to the new Tech School Gym for the next three years.

In 1988 I returned and came in mid-season. I offered to help out on the committee, and started playing with the Midnight team, as David Abud and Rodney had established Kurri teams. It was in this year that Kingsley Dalgleish moved to Horsham from Adelaide, and he took over as president. A team went to Melbourne to compete in the state league trials only to fail to qualify.

A competition was called for in 1989 but with very few entries it was decided not to run a season. It was at this point in time the association went into recess.

The 90’s?

Between 1990 – 1993 there was no volleyball played in Horsham. An opportune phone call in October from the Hamilton Association reignited the Association. We were invited to play in the Glenelg Games in Hamilton, so I canvassed a few people and we were able to come up with two mixed teams. Between the dozen or so people that attended that event, a committee was formed, and the process started all over again. It wasn’t easy! We only had $186 in the bank. In 1994 we started a competition at the Horsham College Gym on the junior site. It was in this year the Association decided to bite the bullet and run our own tournament. We hooked up with the Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly’s Wimmera Games, which enabled the event to be run on a modest budget. Players from the Association entered a team in the Stawell competition, and from this a Stawell team entered the Horsham competition. This then engendered some interest from former Ararat players, and a strong “A” grade competition was formed. The Association ran summer and winter seasons in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 but ran into financial difficulties when numbers dropped off and court hire costs remained at pre-1998 levels. But the Association didn’t shirk their responsibilities, and the tournament of that year got them out of trouble. 1996 saw the Association win their first ever Country Championship title, winning Men’s Division 2. The following year they stepped up to division one and didn’t win a game. In 1998, back in division 2, the Association was victorious again in a marathon five setter. A women’s team came runners up. 1997 saw the Association host Australia and New Zealand men in a Trans Tasman showdown at the basketball stadium. A dream came true when the grandstand was full of supporters to watch this match. The following year the Association hosted Australia and Japan Panasonic, and once again the stands were full. Two wonderful achievements for the Association and the game. Some of the key people in this era included Gary Brown, Geoff and Donna Dunmore, Tim Popple, Vaughn Maroske, Matthew Scott, Katrina Jolley, Angela and Darren Gemmola, Loki McIntyre, Matt Dalkin, Brendan Hagstrom and Chris Pittock. There still weren’t a lot of kids playing during this period. Little did we know that within a short period of time, things were about to change in a massive way.

The Noughties?

A lot of the aforementioned moved on, or began to have young families, and you could understand why they stopped playing. I remember quite vividly, on the night that Cathy Freeman made history for Australia in the Sydney Olympics, I was down at the basketball stadium waiting patiently for someone to turn up at a come and try night. We were always told to be ready for a sports explosion after the Olympics, and we thought we would try and tap into the coverage the Olympics gave the sport. Unfortunately nothing eventuated. After two fruitless years, where no domestic competition was played, we still hosted our tournament in 1999 and 2000 – I was beginning to doubt if we’d ever play again. Up stepped Nick Rigas! Nick had been keeping in contact with me over the course of 2001, and said he would provide teams from Horsham College, if we wanted to try again. So we called for some interest, and in October of 2001 a 7 team competition started on Sunday nights at the Basketball Stadium. I remember playing in the Horsham Tournament that year, and Matthew, aged 12 played with me in a team that came runners up in Men’s Division 2. In 2002 competition moved to Monday nights at the Basketball Stadium to accommodate the expansion in the competition. “A”, “B” and “C” grades were played, with a number of kids teams coming in at “C” grade level and the juggernaut that was to become volleyball began in earnest. Matthew came to me that year and said, “I have a team can I play.” That team included Shaun Bruce, Lachie Robinson, Andrew Jackson, Tim Ladlow, Marcus Krygger and Nic Johns. Most of them had played basketball together, and the following year, 2003 when they were bottom aged players for basketball they were overlooked for the under 16 Horsham squad. This was the opportunity I took with both hands and we started training and competing in volleyball tournaments. The Horsham College Volleyball Program was established. In 2004 the game exploded even more with more kids playing than ever before. Success started to come our way, and in 2005 the game grew alarmingly on the back of the kids. The Association joined the Westvic Academy of Sport, set up a TSP program at Horsham College, and we gained local and statewide exposure for the sport. In 2006 we hosted the Country Championships for the first time with 31 teams competing, the biggest number ever. In 2007 the Association was dealt a bombshell when the Basketball Association asked them to move their competition elsewhere. This threw the game into turmoil, as we had to find a new venue, which as it turned out meant a new night. Much discussion was had between council, Association members and the Basketball Association – all to no avail, we had to get out and there was no negotiation! St Brigid’s College came to our rescue and we made the tough decision to play on Wednesday nights. As we had a lot of kids from Horsham United Football Netball Club involved, we had to be strategic with the composition of our draw. We have played six straight seasons there now, and in the Summer Season of 2010, we had to spill two games over to the Basketball Stadium to avoid late games. The growth and exposure the sport has received in the past decade has firmly implanted volleyball as a major sport in the region. The Association is still hamstrung to a certain degree when it comes to expansion. Where do we go if the numbers start to get up to the 30 team mark? How stretched will our volunteer resources become if we have to go to a second night? These are the issues going forward.

From 2002 to the present day competition has been played twice yearly with in excess of 20 teams across five grades – “A”, “B”, “C”, women and juniors. Key players in the past decade include Paul Denson, Alan Corby, Ian Trigg, Nick Rigas, Di Atkin-Smith, Barry and Heather Robinson, Maree Liston, Judy Johnson, Craig and Donna O’Connor, Graeme and Ruth Ladlow, Graeme Eldridge, Bryan and Christine Chapple, Neti Iese, Tim Popple, Glenn Reinhiemer, Darren and Kelly Angel, Joanne and Matthew Berry, Lachie and Stuart Robinson, Tim and Joel Ladlow, Ryan O’Connor, Mark and Anne Radford.

The next decade will see a great challenge for the Association, as new kids and families become involved. The next generation of administrators have come in at a great time, as the sport establishes itself firmly on the sporting landscape. The important thing is to educate them and give them the knowledge and confidence to be able to pick up where many before them have left off.