Volleyball Australia is banking on a big crowd turning out for the final day of the Australian Beach Grand Slam at Surfers Paradise to boost its case for late inclusion in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The new beach volleyball pairing of Chris McHugh and Bo Soderberg will start favourites to win the men's event on Monday.
McHugh teamed up with the veteran Soderberg after regular partner, Isaac Kapa, underwent shoulder surgery.
The new pairing tasted immediate success, winning the opening round of the Grand Slam at Manly Beach in November.
But they’ll face a big challenge just to get past the semi-final, with Melbourne-based Josh Court and Damien Schumann in good form this weekend.
Court and Schumann enjoyed some success on the World tour late last year, and are hoping to challenge for Australia’s 2016 Olympic team.
Another team with an eye on Rio, WA’s Casey Grice and Cole Durant, will take on New Zealand’s Mike Watson and Sam O’Dea.
Watson and O’Dea are the dark horses on the Gold Coast, having won the Oceania Championships at Manly in November.
In the women’s draw, teams are taking advantage of the absence of Australia’s top-ranked pair, Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy.
World under 23 champions Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar will start slight favourites to take the title.
Olympian Becchara Palmer has been forced to find a new partner for Surfers Paradise, after regular partner Zina Stone was forced through injury to take a break.
26-year-old Palmer, who is hoping to qualify for her second Olympics, has teamed up with Manly Beach’s Katie Bartoli in Queensland, but is on the lookout for a new long-term partner.
Palmer and Bartoli will take on former World junior champion, Alice Rohkamper, and her partner, Sarah Battaglene.
Queensland’s hopes in the women’s draw rest with teenagers Phoebe Bell and Stephanie Weiler.
The men’s final will start at 2pm, with the women set to begin at 3pm.