Australian athlete adjusting to life in Regina
Matt Hender has moved from Perth, Australia, to Regina to play volleyball with the Cougars -Photo: U of R Photography Dep't

Matt Hender travelled a long way to become the newest member of the University of Regina men's volleyball team.

Hailing from Perth, Australia, the 6'3" setter came to Regina through some contacts of Cougars head coach Greg Barthel.

"Our senior men's national team went to Australia and one of their coaches contacted us to ask if there were any teams looking for players," Barthel said. "I said I was."

This year has a lot of firsts for Hender. It's his first time being in Canada, his first time playing volleyball at the university level, and he's in his first year of his Kinesiology & Health Studies degree program.

Among other things, what he misses the most about Australia is the weather.

"Back home right now, it's about 30 degrees every day," Hender said. As Australia has opposite seasons from the northern hemisphere, he didn't have a summer this year - and as anyone who's from Regina would know, the winter hasn't even begun yet.

"It's definitely a culture shock," Hender said about being more than 13,000 kilometres away from home. "Regina is a lot slower paced than back home. To be honest, I thought it would be a much faster-paced country."

Hender is enjoying his time at the University of Regina, though.

"We have world-class facilities here, it's really nice," Hender said. "I'm living with three of the boys, and we all carpool and we're all taking kinesiology as well. I think living with them has made it easier."

Hender mentioned that back in Australia, Canada is known for the Rocky Mountains and he hopes to make it out there sometime while he's here. He also confirmed that Canadians have some misconceptions about Australia.

"When I first got here, one of the guys asked if Western Australia was actually inhabited," Hender said. "He thought it was just a desert."

Hender, who is battling for a starting position, will make his Canada West debut at the University of Manitoba game in Winnipeg on Nov. 5 and Nov. 6. The men's volleyball team's home-opening weekend is Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 against Trinity Western at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport.