Bahrain test for 15-year-old Wheeler at U23 championship

TESTING TRIP: Ipswich Grammar School student Tom Wheeler is looking to further his representative volleyball career playing in Bahrain.
TESTING TRIP: Ipswich Grammar School student Tom Wheeler is looking to further his representative volleyball career playing in Bahrain. Rob Williams

THOMAS Wheeler is about to take the biggest step out of his comfort zone.

The heat of central Queensland, where the 15-year-old Ipswich Grammar School student has spent part of his school holidays, is set to be replaced by the heat of the Middle East.

Wheeler has been chosen to represent the Australian under-23 volleyball team at the Asiastic Junior Championships at Bahrain.

It came as a massive shock given he was only recently overlooked for the Australian under-18 team's tour of Sri Lanka.

The trip to Bahrain will be preceded by a training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra with his new, much older teammates.

"A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my Queensland Academy of Sport coach saying, 'How would you like to go to Bahrain?'" Wheeler said.

"I said: 'That doesn't seem right when I didn't make the team to Sri Lanka'.''

Wheeler suspects the team to Sri Lanka had already been picked before he outshone his opposite at the Australian junior volleyball championships in July.

There Queensland won the title and the 200cm Wheeler was named best blocker.

"I was pretty annoyed," he admitted. "But I'm happy now."

Wheeler heads to Bahrain expecting a tough time, from the opposition as well as the conditions.

But his youthful enthusiasm should get him through almost a month away from home.

The Australians will take on the likes of China, Japan, Thailand and India.

"The level of competition is going to be good," he said.

"My goal is just to be able to compete at this high standard.

"Under 23s is one step down from the Volleyroos. I want to win points, fit in and gain as much experience as possible."

It seems absurd for a 15-year-old to be thinking of national representation at this stage.

But that is the message Wheeler is receiving loud and clear from national selectors.

"I'm hoping in the next couple of years to go off to Canberra (to the AIS) or get an overseas scholarship."

Not until after he has completed school at IGS, however, which means another two years and a bit in Ipswich.

"I can't see myself leaving before then,'' he said.

"The GPS comp is awesome.

"Canberra doesn't have anything like that.

"I want to enjoy it with my friends."

Topics:  volleyball

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