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Sanderson ready for emotional homecoming

Paul Sanderson serves
Melbourne, Australia, July 2, 2015 - Spectators should forgive Paul Sanderson if he takes a moment on Saturday night just to take it all in when the Australian men’s volleyball team take on Serbia in Melbourne.

Because not only will it be the first time the Victorian, and indeed the Australian team, has played a proper competition match in Melbourne, but it will also mark a personal triumph for Sanderson.

Just over six months ago, the affable 29-year-old was facing a battle far greater than he’ll ever confront on the volleyball court – a return of the cancer which he thought he’d defeated just a matter of months beforehand.

But as he did earlier in the year, Sanderson weathered the debilitating super-strength chemo sessions leading up to Christmas with the determination which has made him one of the Volleyroos' most powerful assets.

He’s been told again that he’s in the clear, although he will need to keep getting tests for the rest of his life.

He’s been back in the Australian team for the entire FIVB Volleyball World League campaign, which has taken him from Adelaide, to Brazil, to Italy, Serbia and now back home again.

Sanderson returned with a bang, his trademark rocket serve causing mayhem among opponents and propelling him to top server in the 2015 World League.

This weekend many of his family and friends, the people who supported him through his darkest days, will be courtside and willing him on.

“For me I just want to get out there and do my job,” a typically stoic Sanderson said this week.

“I kind of forget all that stuff when I’m out on the court. You just focus on one point at a time, so all that stuff goes out of my mind.”

As the only Victorian in the Australian team Sanderson is extra excited about the Volleyroos playing in Melbourne.

“Melbourne hasn’t seen too much high-level volleyball,” Sanderson said.

“There were a couple of exhibition matches against Canada many years back which I came along and watched, feeling quite jealous.

“But now I finally get my chance to show my family and friends what I’m capable of.”

These will be the last two matches for Australia before the team heads to Iran later this month for the Asian Championships, the first step on the road to Rio 2016.

The Volleyroos played in London in 2012, but Sanderson wasn’t among the team. He’s got lots of reasons why he wants to be there next year.

“I’m loving volleyball, it’s a good time to be around the national team,” he said.

“Everyone who went in 2012 tells me it was one of the best experiences they ever had, how amazing it was to walk out in the opening ceremony.

“That’s what we play for, that’s the motivation for me to keep going and to keep pushing myself.”

As if Paul Sanderson needed any more motivation.

Australia take on Serbia at 19.00 Saturday and 16.30 Sunday at the State Basketball Centre in Melbourne.


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