Sydney, Australia, July 3, 2014 - Two years ago, 19-year-old
Nehemiah Mote was playing social volleyball with his Campbelltown Church Group,
as blissfully unaware of the Australian Olympic volleyball team as they were of
He only played volleyball because his father had once played for Samoa, and because he loved the team environment, he was good at the sport – very good as it turned out.
This weekend, the now 21-year-old will be part of the starting line-up of Australia for its FIVB Volleyball World League clash against Canada at Sydney’s Olympic Park.
Mote has been on an incredible journey, which started when an onlooker tipped the Australian Institute of Sports about a kid playing for a church team who was pretty exceptional.
The Australian Institute of Sports sent a scout to investigate until the scout excitedly reported back that the kid was the “real deal”, the organisation immediately offered Mote a scholarship.
“It’s pretty hard for me to come to terms with the gravity of what I’m doing right now,” Mote said. “Being part of the national team is pretty big. It’s a great opportunity. I didn’t really play proper volleyball until 2012, when I joined a club, and I haven’t looked back.”
Australia coach Jon Uriarte is privately very excited about the player everyone affectionately calls “Nemo”, and with good reason.
At 2.04m, Mote is not even close to the tallest person in the Volleyroo squad. But his spike reach of 3.62m and his block reach of 3.54m are the best on the team – even greater than 2.12m Thomas Edgar.
Mote is still developing, and after just 12 months as part of the Australian squad, the changes have been impressive.
“I am still pretty unfit but I have gained about 8 kilograms, which I hope is muscle,” Mote said. “I am just mentally trying to absorb everything – trying to be a sponge. Volleyball has taken me to places I only have studied about in high school. I never thought I would be travelling anywhere, not at this age anyway. I am very fortunate.”
It is quite hard not to be impressed with Mote. During the team’s recent visit to Belgium, every player was asked to name three things Belgium was famous for. Nearly every player mentioned chocolate, beer and pastries – except for Mote, who mentioned the famous “Manneken Pis” statue – not by name, it has to be said, but he knew what he was talking about.
The young player has wisdom and to hear him talk about what he hopes his success will mean for the Samoan community is admirable.
“I just hope I can evoke some sort of inspiration into the Samoan community,” he said. “Not many Samoan people have made it this far, certainly in the male volleyball side, but I definitely want to evoke some sort of belief that we can make it in whatever we do.”
“I’m still coming to grips with the gravity of it. Some of the senior boys have told me just treat it like another training session when I start to feel the pressure, but World League is something totally different. It is worldwide – it is on TV – I just hope I don’t crack under the pressure.”
Mote has stood up to the pressure so far, so much so that Uriarte has named the 21-year-old in his starting line-up in recent Volleyroo matches.
This weekend, wearing the green and gold, and playing in front of many of his family and friends for the first time, everyone will get to see what this young player is all about.
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