Volleyballer returns from Iranian odyssey
VOLLEYBALL: Steven MacDonald wasn't sure what to expect when heading over to Iran for the 2017 Asian Men's Under-23 Volleyball Championships, but the former Gladstone Thunder player thoroughly enjoyed his experience in the Middle Eastern country.
Now based in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport, MacDonald (pictured right) represented the Australian team at the Championships which ran from May 1-9 in the Iranian city of Ardabil.
Ardabil is located about 70km from the Caspian Sea and just under 400km north-west of capital Tehran.
Competing against 10 other nations, the Australian's failed to win a match but weren't disgraced during the tournament.
The Aussies were in Pool C against China and Malaysia, narrowly losing those two games to finished third in their group to miss out on a quarter finals berth.
Despite finishing in 11th and last spot at the tournament after a 3-0 loss to Uzbekistan in the play-off match, MacDonald's side exacted revenge of sorts against the Uzbekis with a 3-1 win in a friendly match.
The 19-year-old said Australia did well on a limited preparation after the side only spent a little under a week at a pre-tournament training camp in Poland.
"We heard most teams had been training together for six months or more,” MacDonald said.
"Although we had a very talented team in that time you can't expect a lot.
"We could have done better but with not a lot of time it's understandable.”
Playing at middle blocker, MacDonald received a solid portion of playing time during his time in Iran.
"I started in the last two games (against China and Uzbekistan) and played about three-quarters of the first game (against Malaysia),” he said.
"I got better as the tournament wore on.
"I was pretty nervous for the first game, but in the China game I would say that's probably the best game I've ever played.
"China is one of the best volleyball countries in the world.
"We had no pressure on us to beat them and it was a really good game.”
MacDonald was the most inexperienced member of the squad, but was extremely pleased with how the Australian side conducted themselves against the Chinese.
"We took set off China in that game and were right with them every other set and only lost the others by a couple of points,” he said.
"That was probably the most memorable bit of the tournament.”
The former basketball and track and field star only returned to Australia via Poland last Friday night and has lasting memories of his Iranian trip.
"It was a bit different to what I'm used to here in Australia,” he said.
"The people are really friendly and the whole culture when you go outside the main cities it's nothing what you'd expect from somewhere in the Middle East.
"It was really beautiful.”