devo's volleyball – Australian volleyball: news and views

Best Aussie indoor volleyballer ever?

Posted by devo on February 17, 2009

It’s always difficult to choose the best ever. Most of us aren’t old enough to remember that far back. To make a true comparison. But at devo’s we do have a good age range of people coming on board to comment. So who is the best Aussie indoor volleyballer you have seen play? You can vote for players in the poll in the left side panel.

If you want me to add a player to the list, convince me with a comment to this post.

You can check out Aussie players back to 1975 @ the Australian Volleyball Team Archive

31 Responses to “Best Aussie indoor volleyballer ever?”

  1. sam said

    from what i’ve seen and heard i think that dan howard derserves a place in the poll.

  2. devo said

    @ Sam
    What have you seen and heard Sam?

    Ahhhhhhhhhh, I hear you all saying. That is devo’s cunning plan. No discussion; no putting your beliefs on the line – no vote.

  3. Phillip DeSalvo said

    Dan really should be on this list. I am not going to say who I think is the best because different players, positions, time. But no matter what Dan should have a place on the list. Ben and Beardy also both amazing voleyball players and also great blokes.

  4. devo said

    @ Phill
    Okay, I’ve never won an argument with you, even when you’ve been wrong! Two votes gets Dan on the list. Not that I’d argue against that.

  5. Dan said

    Ted Kalkoven must be way up there. One of the first to play internationally as a professional in France. A Gippsland boy too.
    If anyone wants to see him play ask Murray Mansfield, he has tapes of him.

  6. vball enthusiast said

    I’d like to throw George Santamaria’s name in the ring. Setter’s always go unnoticed. George was one of the best.

  7. markleb said

    Ahh… interesting…
    By best ever, do we mean domestically or internationally? The one who was the best player IN Australia or the best Australian player in the world.
    If it is domestic, then you more or less have to disclude anyone who has played since about 1995, which was the last time there was a really meaningful, inclusive national competition. If we mean internationally then that really only includes the last 10 or so years. Before that Australian players were not really competitive on the international stage.
    So I would actually split it into two parts.
    From the ‘Domestic Era’, I think the most important players were probably George Mraz who won everything in the 70’s and Steve Tutton who won everything in the 80’s. Other names in the conversation would have to include Mark Tutton, Raoul Tuul, Ted Kalkhoven (who I’m not sure actually did play in France), Chris Regenass and probably a few others from the 80’s. And from the 70’s about 6 or 7 of George’s teammates (sorry, the names escape me but Tony Naar is one who straddled both decades).
    From the ‘International Era’, it is a little easier. Dan Howard, Shane Van Beest and Ben Hardy are the players who have played in the biggest leagues and have the most recognition internationally.
    Geoff Hart, Gabe Mauerhofer and Steve Lugge were pioneers for players to overseas to play but probably don’t really fit into either ‘era’ completely.
    It’s all interesting. About 10 years ago when everyone was coming out with the ‘Teams of the Century’, I thought of a volleyball one. From the top of head my Team of the 20th Century was something like Setters – Mraz, S. Tutton, Newcomb. Middles – Regenass, Naar, Howard. Receivers – Hardy, Mauerhofer, Kalkhoven, Beard. Opposites – Lugge, Van Beest.

  8. devo said

    @ Markleb
    If you were to select and coach a team for Australia, and assuming that every player you have ever seen play was fit and available,who would be the first person that you would select. Really, it’s an impossible task. But that’s what you are being asked to do.

  9. markleb said

    If that is the criteria, then the choice is really quite simple. The standard of the game has changed so much that you can disregard everyone who finished playing more than five years ago. So there are only really three.

  10. devo said

    @ Markleb
    This is always the dilemma of these polls: how do you compare players across the years? Do you assume that a George Mraz, playing today, with the training and playing opportunities available, would be playing at today’s standards? I think that is a given. So if George had been playing in the French League for the last 4 years, would you choose him?

    Of the 3 “today” players (I have a gun pointing at your head – no choices) who would you select first?

  11. Caveman said

    I am about to show my age here.
    In the same era as George Mraz there were a lot of good players such as … Big Jack (Jack Atkins) the only player ever (so far as I know anyway) to be “asked” to play for Australia. And then there was Ted Kalkhoven !!
    What you actually need is a list to refresh the memory and then you ask the same question.

  12. Rusty said

    Having played with and against Dan Howard at club and state junior level, he gets both my votes. He was awesome, even more given that he only played a bit of social volleyball in Esperance (small WA country town, 700km from Perth) and was spotted at county week as having “potential”. To go on and captain your country and play Div 1 in the richest(?) league in the world is amazing.

  13. Sally B said


    I have another 3 who i feel should be on your list to boost the female ranks (apart from myself as someone who has been around too long):

    Kerri Pottharst (SA) – First female player to play Div 1 in Italy and win an Olympic Gold Medal for beach volleyball as well

    Diane Scholtz (NSW) – (not sure on spelling, however i was a wee junior when she used to be on my team and all i heard about was what an awesome player she was in her day – I know that feeling)

    Pauline Manser (WA) – Another player to gain All American status indoor and 5th at Olympics for beach volleyball

    No doubt i will receive more comments hopefully from those whose volleyball careers were pre: 1985

  14. markleb said

    You are right about comparing players across the years, that was why I was thinking of the different eras. The easiest way in my head at least is to think of how Australian players ranked in the world at that time. So at least in terms of the training opportunities for example they are vaguely comparable.
    So you still end up with my three :) But I don’t believe you’ll pull the trigger so I don’t have to choose between them.
    I do find it disappointing that while we are having this discussion, most people in Australia (even the most hard core volleyball fans) really don’t know just how good some of these guys are. The few matches they play in Australia are friendly matches and aren’t in any way indicative of the standard they play at week in, week out in Europe or in Asian competitions.

  15. liam said

    Markleb is right about the fact that even the most hard core fans in Australia don’t get to see how good our guys are. I check up on the devo site and the avf site every day, i see the results from the matches in the european competitions, but i don’t think i can appreciate how good these guys really are. If there were more matches played in Australia or on television i think i’d be able to appreciate the skills ivolved with the internationl level of volleyball.

  16. devo said

    Beware the ides of March!

    I have been very lucky, as a father of, to get a bit of a taste of what you are talking about. One of the highlights of my volleyball life was the Aus vs Argies match in Dandenong, and Aus vs a Sth American team(? senility settling in) at the Glasshouse in Melbourne. Full stadiums watching international volleyball in Australia. I have also watched AIS+/Aussie teams vs various international teams games at the AIS where there have been a handful of parents watching some great talent. Yes they’re only friendlies, but they’re as close as I’m going to get here in Aus. I have seen matches in the Czech Republic that would blow away any team, including the AIS here in Aus. I am looking forward to seeing some German action. (Hopefully some winning action – remember the gun!)I would love to catch some Italian / Polish / Russian / Italian action. Maybe next year.

    Here in Aus, there is a lack of understanding of the commitment, the power, the hours of training, the loneliness being away from family, the excitement, the friendships, not getting paid, using what you do get paid to support your commitment to the Aus volleyball team, not knowing if you have a team next year etc. And even volleyball people not understanding what you are doing OS.

    It’s disappointing that people here don’t have any idea who George Mraz, Raoul Tuul, Chris Regenass, Tony Naar, Steve Lugge, Scott Newcomb etc etc are.

    You are right Markleb.

    Maybe this could be a focus for the blog into the future.

  17. Philfan said

    Phil DeSalvo needs to be on the list. He is on my list for being my boyfriend in the near future.

  18. Dinosaur said

    Been around

    Seen them all play…albeit George Mraz mailnly when he was older

    Played with many.

    Almost impossible to compare across the ages in all sports, but EVEN harder in volleyball because In last 20-25 years:
    * Volleyball at top level became position specific (Ted K could play every position except set!)
    * Volleyball became Pro and athletes in Australia started training every day
    Volleyball got big. Ie: George Mraz would be lucky to be 5 ft 10! and Ted K (who I lean towars as being the best all round volleyballer…) was real big in his time at 6 ft 4 (although he did have a 7ft wing span. I swear I saw him adjust his knee pads one day without bending his back or knees!!!!!)

    Therefore its tough to compare and decide. Undoubtedly todays pros like Dan, Ben etc play a harder, stronger, bigger and more consistent style of volleyball than any past player. But does that make them the best?

  19. Dimitri said

    Can you name one person who at the same time was:

    1 Going to Uni
    2 Working full time
    3 Running a part time business
    4 Looking after his family
    5 AND playing Volleyball for Australia while still picking out pieces of glass from his forearms after a car accident?

    There was, is and will never again be another,

    Nick Kimov

  20. Alexis said

    Dinosaur, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’d suggest that an excellent criteria for basing any assessments of relative quality would be to look favourably at those who: “Undoubtedly … play a harder, stronger, bigger and more consistent style of volleyball than any past player”.

    Regarding Ted K, I don’t really remember seeing him play, but I have a certain close relative to whom he was an idol. I do know however that Steve Tutton actually won MVP at Nationals while playing as a setter/hitter, passer/hitter, setter, and middle. Best? Who knows. Most complete? perhaps.

  21. Old timer said

    Regarding Nick Kimov, I never had the pleasure of seeing him play but I heard a lot of great things about him as a player. I did see him win the World Master’s Games Beach Volleyball (Over 50’s I think) in the early 90’s and he was still a great competitor then.

    Who is the greatest? Impossible, but other older players to consider (that haven’t been mentioned yet or aren’t on the voting list) – Stewart Uher, John Hiller, Roy Bruynius, Hiller Raniko, Doug Vainsaar, Mick Wykrota, Tony Naar, Phil Borgeaud, Phil Roberts, Ilkka Veijalianen, Julia Kelaher, Dianne McGee, Andres Lomp, Edi Vukosa, Daniel Arabi, Brook Ramage, Mark Tutton, Raoul Tuul……………………All of these players could win a match for their team in their era. Maybe not the same as Italian A1 but they generally didn’t have the same opportunity as some of today’s players.

    It is great, however, to see the modern players continue to improve the standard of play and set the pace for those to come, just as the players whose names I have listed did.

  22. not so old timer said

    @ Old Timer

    You forgot to Mention the Current Australian Coach, Russell Borgeaud. He was, and still is a great Volleyball player.

  23. Dinosaur said

    Maybe it could be “best for his height”

    I saw a 184cm outside hitter almost beat a touring international team at the glasshouse in Melbourne in the mid/late 80’s. He was one of the most dynamic players we have had and was a member of the first AIS intake in the 80’s. His name has not been mentioned yet ………… ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    GREG DOYLE – anyone at that game or remember him?

    • Kel said

      I remember Greg Doyle, I watched one of his indoor games when he played for Bendigo against Warrnambool in the 80’s. I must say one of the hardest hitting spikers I can remember but also the most dynamic. A wonder to watch! I’d definitely rate as one of the best players in Australia’s history!

  24. markleb said

    @ devo
    It’s a shame you don’t remember more of that game from Glasshouse. Otherwise you might remember Giba playing when he was just a snotty, annoying kid and not the best guy on the best team in the world. Their coaches didn’t think he’d even crack their A national team.
    And I must say, that as entertaining as those matches undoubtedly were, there is a pretty big difference between competitive and non competitive matches. As much as everyone likes to win all the time there is no way that they prepare and approach games the same way when there is nothing riding on them. So for me the Olympics were the last time the National Team ‘played’ in Australia.
    @ old timer
    You must be really old! I know all those names and have seen them all play but I was about 6 years old at the time and don’t remember all of them :) Just jokes. They are certainly names that should be remembered in the annals of Australian volleyball and all of them represented Australia at the highest levels that were available to them at the time. That they didn’t have the same opportunities that the current generation has is not their fault and yet without them those opportunities would not exist.
    @ dinosaur
    I can’t be absolutely certain because I didn’t live it personally, but I am reasonably sure that back in the day many CLUB players actually did train every day. I can think of Northern Aurora in Adelaide and Fort Street in Sydney (and Heidelberg in Melbourne?) who were training at least nearly every day in the late 70’s and early 80’s. When I was a young lad, there were club teams that routinely trained three times a week (Vasco da Gama in Adelaide, Frankston in Melbourne), plus whatever individual state team commitments they may have had. Nowadays, the National Team guys may be training more, but the average volleyballer is training less.

    • devo said

      @ markleb
      To be honest, the only 3 things that I remember from the Glasshouse are (I’m sure it’s not really senility … yet):
      The setter, certainly the best that I’d seen up to that stage
      A young Matty wanting to go and talk to Tomas, who was in “the important people seating”, and not understanding why not.
      That we’d brought a bus load of kids up from Wonnie to watch the match.

      Agree that friendlies just aren’t the same. But they are the closest that we mere mortals get to the real thing. They expand our understanding.

  25. darkhorse said

    Been around the block for almost 30yrs in the sport. Seen them all come and go. Dinosaur was correct in mentioning Ted was best allrounder. Although, Ted did set one season for his beloved heidelberg club. Ted is in no way inferior to the size, strength and consistency of players nowadays. To be frank, still yet to see anyone hit a roof ball off a highball the way tex(teds nickname)did. It’s not so much the strength of the spike, but the timing and technique needed to do so. Take in consideration, Ted sadly was killed in a car accident at 26yrs old. No where near his full potential for his strength and experience. Ted, when on court, burned with an undying intensity.

    Mark Leb, why would you even bother mentioning luggi or Heart?!!!! Those guys were the most over rated players.

    • markleb said

      Simply, they were the best players of their generation and real trailblazers for Australian volleyballers.
      Until the Olympic generation, Lugge was the best performed Australian player in international competition and the first Australian to play in Europe with some success (although he’s listed as German on the Italian league site). Likewise Hart played with great success at Pepperdine college and was named an All-American (2nd or 3rd team) during his time there. Both returned home in 1990 to be part of the first AIS program were leading players in the teams that chalked up the first ever victories over China and Korea as well as 4th place at 1991 Asians in Perth.
      It may well be that they played their best volleyball overseas, but they are definitely not overrated and their contributions should not be underestimated.

      • darkhorse said

        when was it that heart and luggi was part of victories over china and korea???
        Secondly, luggi was so limited as a player. Yes he was big, but he was embarrassing to say the least sometimes. He was as gracefull as a baby elephant. Heart had the biggest triceps in the world, but that’s it. Played against these guys, they weren’t much chop. Very ordinary. No disrespect intended, but we should learn to look at the class of player when it comes to this. Chris regenass i’d pick over those two guys anyday. Ted kalkhouven, Steve Tutton. Who can tell, if these guys were given the opportunity of a full time program how devastating as players and leaders these guys would have been.

        I tend to disagree that luggu and heart were the best of their generation. We had much better players domestically. These players weren’t even exposed to full time programs.

  26. Kel said

    I remember Greg Doyle, I watched one of his indoor games when he played for Bendigo against Warrnambool in the 80’s. I must say one of the hardest hitting spikers I can remember but also the most dynamic. A wonder to watch! I’d definitely rate as one of the best players in Australia’s history!

  27. John said

    Paul Carrol is the best aussie by far

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