Local Sports: Aussie connection paying off for RDC Kings

The RDC volleyball Kings have put together a nice pipeline with Australia.

“It started several years ago and has been perfect for us and hopefully it continues,” said Kings head coach Aaron Schulha.

“It’s not a huge deal as they speak English and fit in nicely. It’s a good pipeline to have and nice in that we’re able to keep guys for several years and then look for the next group to come in.”

The likes of setters Luke and Sam Brisbane and outside hitter Regan Fathers, to name just a few, have played a major role in helping the Kings maintain their status as one of the premier men’s college volleyball programs in the country.

Last season Fathers was the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association player of the year as he finished off his college career with a silver medal at the CCAA championships at RDC.

But he wasn’t finished helping the Kings, playing a major role in recruiting the latest Aussie star Patrik Toze.

Toze originally came to Canada from Australia in 2015 to play with the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, B.C. He played two years with COTR before transferring to Mount Royal University.

He spent one season there but tore up his shoulder, which needed reconstructive surgery.

“I took last season off to recuperate,” he explained. “I decided I wanted to come back but wasn’t sure where. Regan is a good friend of mine and he said Aaron was looking for someone and that’s when I decided to see about coming here.”

But he wasn’t sure what role he’d fill.

“I felt I was a little broken after the injury and sitting out a year, but it’s been a good transition. I wasn’t sure what my role would be. If it would be more working with the younger guys off the court or how much playing time I’d get. It’s been a little of both which I’m pleased with.

“It’s great to share stuff with the younger guys.”

It took a while for Toze to start to regain his form he showed when he was the rookie of the year and first-team all-star in the PacWest in Cranbrook.

The fact is Toze has quickly become one of the premier outside hitters on the Kings. He started playing on the right side but has moved back to his more familiar spot on the left side and is averaging 2.1 kills per set.

“I’m still getting back into it, but it’s not looking too bad for an old guy,” laughed the six-foot-four 23-year-old from Brisbane.

While Patrik just needs repetitions to get back his timing on the court, he said the toughest part about coming back after missing a year has been in the class room.

“Getting back on track in school is tough. It’s tough to just stop then pick it up again.”

But overall the transition to RDC has been smooth. It helps having three other Aussies — setter Tom Wass, Regan’s brother Jayden and middle Dillon Gauci — on the roster.

“It certainly makes the transition easier,” he said. “This is the first team I’ve played with other guys from Australia. In fact I room with a couple. It’s been a blast.”

Schulha feels Toze is close to being where he needs to be.

“He’s a dynamic player. He brings a different kind of height of attack with similar explosiveness to Regan. His passing is coming along with his serve. He’s been working hard on developing all pats of his game. He’s a good energy piece and has been great to work with.

“He’s a definite asset being able to play both wings and when he’s passing and serving he’s tough to stop.”

Toze is in his fourth season of eligibility and feels he’ll be around next season.

That has Schulha smiling.

“We certainly want to keep him. Right now we have a good mix (of Aussies) on the team with a setter middle and outside hitter.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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