Aiono making his mark
It’s almost like Ash Aiono didn’t have a choice.
The Whitby teenager, who is in year 13 at St Pat’s Town, didn’t start playing volleyball until he was in year 11.
‘‘I was more into rugby and basketball, but volleyball has always been a part of my life,’’ he said.
That’s down to his father Epati’s heavy involvement in the sport as a New Zealand representative and a coach.
‘‘Ash would come on all our road trips for the Hutt Hawks,’’ Epati said. ‘‘He was a ballboy and would generally chase us around.
‘‘A lot of people thought he’d be into volleyball sooner, but we haven’t pushed him.’’
Aiono, who is an outside hitter, was the sole Wellington player among the 49 selected for a national under-18 camp in April.
He did well at the camp, and was selected as one of four non-travelling reserves, outside the 12 who will head to a high performance tournament in Oklahoma in July.
He was frustrated at being so close, but still proud of his efforts. Having just turned 17, Aiono will have one more crack at the under-18 side next year.
‘‘You never know. I still might get the chance to travel this year.
‘‘I’m just going to keep working hard and improving.’’
His focus for this season is to perform for the Hutt Hawks and make Wellington under-19s.
Ultimately, like his father, he wants to pull on the senior singlet for his country and have the chance to play volleyball overseas.
Epati is in the throes of reinvigorating the Porirua Volleyball Club, which folded in 1997. He hopes to get juniors and seniors together again to tackle leagues in the Hutt Valley and Wellington.
‘‘The talent is there; it’s just a case of bringing it all together,’’ he said.
‘‘There are good players in different leagues and clubs and we’d love to tempt them back and build a strong, local club.’’
He said the Wellington volleyball scene was improving.
Volleyball verve: Ash Aiono captained the St Pat’s Town team that won the Wellington senior boys competition this year, and is on the cusp of the under-18 national team.