Podcast (Episode 29) New Zealand Handball Debuts at the Asian Championships

New Zealand Men’s National Team performing the traditional Haka before a match at the Asian Championships.

Earlier this month the New Zealand Men’s team played in their first major handball tournament, the 2018 Asian Men’s Championship.  Joining me to talk about handball in New Zealand was one of the team captains, Karl Fitzpatrick, and the team’s leading goal scorer, Aston Lang.

We discuss their performance at the tournament, how handball is organized in New Zealand, how they felt about playing in Asia (vice Oceania), and, of course, the Haka.  The interview took place prior to their final match vs Bangladesh, so if you want to check out how they did in this final effort the video is available below as are a couple of links to topics that were discussed.

  • New Zealand Handball Federation Website: Link
  • New Zealand Handball Federation on Facebook: Link
  • Asian Handball Championships (Wikipedia):  Link
  • Podcast on Aarhus Academy (The Handball Academy Aston attended): Link
  • Haka (Wikipedia): Link
  • Video (Full Match) (13th Place Match) New Zealand vs Bangladesh: Link
    – Fitzpatrick is #8; Lang is #24
    – The Haka can be viewed at the 5:00 minute mark
  • Video (Highlights) (13th Place Match) New Zealand vs Bangladesh: Link

This podcast episode was brought to you by Nord VPN.

Well, the European Men’s Championships were truly a tour de force for handball fans with every match readily available live and on demand.   It was truly awesome to see a couple of great handball matches almost every day for 16 days, but alas, it’s over.  Fortunately, as I discussed with ehfTV’s Tom O’Brannigan there’s more handball to watch through May with the EHF Champions League starting back up.  And, in my opinion, it’s actually the best handball in the world to watch on a regular basis.

And, the Champions league starts back up with a bang on Tuesday, 7 February, with Kiel playing hosting to Veszprem.  Will that big match up be readily available for viewing or will it be geoblocked for mysterious unknown reasons?

Honestly, I can’t say and honestly I just don’t worry about that much anymore…

And, while I can’t guarantee you that Nord VPN will solve all your handball viewing problems I will unequivocally state, that I am personally a very, very happy camper with my Nord VPN subscription.  With a free trial and plans starting as low as $3.29/month you really owe it to yourself to check it out.


If you would like to advertise on the Team Handball News Podcast contact John Ryan at john.ryan@teamhandballnews.com

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Podcast: Americans Qualify for Olympic Handball for the First Time in Over 20 Years!***

American Samoa’s U17 Beach Handball Team: Headed to the Youth Olympic Games next summer in Argentina.

While this title sounds like epic news there are a few asterisks that have to be explained.  Still really great news, just not epic.

Asterisk #1:  The handball in question is “Beach Handball”
Asterisk #2:  The Olympics in question is the Youth Olympic Games
Asterisk #3:  The Americans in question are American Nationals from the U.S. Territory of American Samoa

Yes, the American Samoa Women’s U17 Beach Handball team has qualified for the Youth Olympic Games to be staged next summer in Argentina.  With only 55,000 inhabitants and, believe it or not, not enough sand on the islands to play beach handball properly, American Samoa was able to put together a team in a few short months to first win the Oceania championships and participate in the U17 Beach Handball Word Championships.  While they were beaten soundly by some of the game’s traditional powers they still qualified for the Youth Olympic Games by defeating Australia twice and thus securing the Oceania slot to the Youth Olympic Games.

To find out more about handball and beach handball in American Samoa I spoke with the U17 Women’s coach, Carl Sagapolutele Floor.  Carl fills me on the challenges of starting a handball program on a remote Pacific island, learning how to play beach handball without sand, and the road from no program to the Youth Olympic Games.

References:
Curt Flood (not to be confused with Carl Floor): Link
60 Minutes video on American Football in American Samoa: Link
American Samoa Handball Association Facebook Page:  Link

If you would like to advertise on the Team Handball News Podcast contact John Ryan at john.ryan@teamhandballnews.com

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Handball and Development in Australia: A New Path

The Australian men's team sing the national anthem before facing Spain at the 2013 Men's World Championship in Spain

The Australian men’s team sing the national anthem before facing Spain at the 2013 Men’s World Championship in Spain

Former Australian national team player now journalist Courtney Gahan weighs in on the IHF decision to exclude Oceania from the 2015 World Championship and just how important international competitions like the WC are to developing handball nations like Australia.

The initial shock felt by the athletes, officials and the Australian and Oceania handball communities at large following the IHF’s decision to withdraw Australia from the 2015 Men’s World Championship in Qatar may have lessened, but the decision brings with it potentially far greater long-term consequences for the development of handball in a region that has always been working against the odds – and what happens next will determine the fate of not only all the athletes, coaches, officials and countless other volunteers who have dedicated years to seeing their sport grow, but of the sport itself.

Despite the rather late nature of the action by the IHF, the decision to remove Oceania’s compulsory spot could be seen as a blessing rather than a curse – provided alternatives for the teams in the region are put into place. Now is a crucial time for handball in Oceania, and it is important that the countries in this region have the support and assistance of the IHF in finding the path that will not be an easy or short one, but will likely take handball in the area to a much better place.

As someone who has been involved in Australian handball for many years, in almost every capacity there is – from national representative to coach to helping start a new club, not to mention a sibling now part of the men’s national team, I have a great deal of experience and care deeply about handball in this region. I also have experience with handball in Europe, having played in the region myself and now as a contributor to the EHF media. These two regions are almost complete opposites when it comes to handball, a fact that has helped me gain a unique point of view of the current status and future of handball.

The question of development

Handball is not alone when it comes to the difficult question of development in Australia, Oceania or even the world. Countless team sports are ahead of handball in terms of participation, spectators and even any sort of basic knowledge of the game. Then there are a number of sports that have traditionally experienced more of a fight for participation, funding and recognition – sometimes only facing one of these problems but oftentimes a combination. And handball is one that suffers from all three of these issues in the Oceania region.

Sadly, there is little that can be done to increase handball’s funding in Australia. The Australian Sports Commission allocates funding to each sport based on performance history and immediate potential – essentially, a sport has to be able to prove it has a chance of winning a World Championship or equally challenging equivalent. Anyone familiar with Australia’s handball results will be aware this is not an immediate possibility for our teams, so we must move on to other options if we hope to develop – greater levels of participation to increase the pool of players from which to draw and more development opportunities for our current athletes.

The question of increased participation is, in my mind, linked to exposure. I feel certain the level of handball knowledge possessed by most of the Australian public would shock those that grew up with it – I guarantee any Australian involved in handball would be unable to count the number of times they have had to explain the sport to someone.

It is not that handball has no place in Australia; almost any sport can be successful in any country provided it has the opportunity to grow. There is no doubt handball can be loved and participated in enthusiastically by Australians – and it is, by those that have already been lucky enough to stumble across it.

Experience is key

In the end, the question of exposure and funding comes back to the performance of our current national teams. When we begin to record results, handball will gain exposure in Australia and bring with it more participants. There are many factors that contribute to the success of a sporting team, but I would like to isolate one key difference between the Australian and Oceanic teams in comparison with other nations that perhaps can be helped – international experience.

The statistics make it easy to see the crucial gap here – a significant discrepancy exists in number of international matches between players of different countries, especially those between teams from Europe and teams from Oceania. At the end of the 2013 Men’s World Championship, Australia team captain, Bevan Calvert, had recorded 39 matches in the national team – almost ten years after his national team debut in 2004. At just 28 years of age, Calvert is also one of the most experienced and long-serving on the team, a fact which highlights the excessively high turnover in our national squads, due in large part to funding concerns for our athletes.

Comparing Calvert’s number of games, which far outnumber most of the other members of the national squad, to players of the same age from other nations is telling. Take Croatia’s Marko Kopljar and Hungarian Kornel Nagy as examples. Both are Calvert’s age, but each has played upwards of 90 matches for their country. Kopljar debuted on the senior Croatia team at the end of 2008, which puts his average number of international games per year at 15.5, versus Calvert’s 3.9. Obviously there are other factors to consider here, but the fact remains that the only international experience Australia’s players get before they board the plane to the World Championship, where they face a completely different level of play on court, is at the Oceania Handball Nations Championship.

The other relevant question is how long each Australian player can persist in pursuing this difficult endeavour; funding has already been mentioned as a major concern for many Australian handball players, but there is also no denying the challenging experience our athletes undergo through a World Championship tournament is another contributor, as beneficial and extremely meaningful as this experience obviously is. This has meant the core group of athletes continually changes as players decide, for one reason or another, to leave the team. Such high turnover prevents our teams from travelling through the various stages of development together or gaining a comparable amount of cumulative individual experience.

Minority sports and their development in Australia

It is not only handball in Australia that faces the problem of gaining experience for its athletes. Australia’s geographical situation puts it in a region where its national teams tend to dominate most sports. This has meant that many of our teams have had to either become competitive on the world stage in isolation or find an alternative way to gain the experience their athletes need to develop.

There are a number of team sports where Oceania is granted a direct qualification spot or two for the World Championship or equivalent, including basketball, water polo and field hockey, but these are sports where Australia is already on the world map in terms of rankings and results. It is those that are or once were minority sports, such as baseball, volleyball and football, which had to forge a new path for their athletes to gain experience.

Football was played in Australia for over fifty years before the first successful attempt at qualifying for the World Cup in 1974. Location made continued improvement difficult and following the 1974 World Cup, Australia did not qualify again until Germany hosted in 2006. In the meantime Australia began participating in the FIFA Confederations Cup, a position they achieved as Oceania Champions. This tournament enabled the Australian players to gain significant experience and opportunity for development.

In 2006, Australia left the Oceania Football Confederation to join the Asian Football Federation. Australia has qualified for the two World Cups that have taken place since they joined the AFF, and despite not yet being widely recognised as a footballing nation, have contributed to the impressive fan base for the sport that continues to grow within Australia.

Australian volleyball has travelled a long road to get where they are now also, participating in the Asian Championships since the 1970s and only beginning to qualify for Olympic Games and World Championships around the 2000s. Whilst the Australian volleyball team may not be one of the world’s strongest, they have certainly found the road to development and have recorded some encouraging results along the way – namely when they upset winners of the 2012 World League, Poland, by recording a 3-1 victory at the London Olympics against a nation that is considered one of the strongest in the sport.

Baseball in Australia began to increase in popularity in the late 70s-early 80s thanks to the outside influence of coaches coming from the USA that helped develop the national championship into a highly competitive event. The national team recorded victories here and there, but achieved their first notable success in 1997 with a bronze medal at the Intercontinental Cup followed by the gold medal at the same competition in 1999. Perhaps the national team’s biggest achievement was their silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but there have also been a number of individual successes that have helped the sport gain interest in Australia and encouraged young players who dreamed of the impossible.

Though each of these stories are different, they draw interesting parallels and their lessons can be extremely beneficial to the potential development of handball in Australia, Oceania and the rest of the world. The most common factor of importance that comes from developing each and every one of these sports is experience – it was only when the national teams and athletes across the country started to gain more experience that Australia began to climb global rankings. No matter which path was taken to gain this experience, another undeniable factor is that the respective organisations received assistance and support from neighbouring federations, international expert coaches or the sport’s global governing body.

It is unfortunate for countries that desire to develop in handball that funding and greater awareness of the sport are of such importance, but surely experience is the one area in which handball federations can work together to give all athletes the opportunity to develop. Playing in more international matches would be invaluable for the Australian players, as it would be for our friends within the region and those countries in other regions that share our hopes and likely are full of the same passionate people we have in Australia.

The most positive outcome of the ‘Qatar incident’ is that it highlights the need for development in minority handball regions. Now is the time to consider how further development in Oceania and across all continents can be achieved. Upon first hearing of the IHF’s decision I admit I was concerned it would prove too discouraging for many within the Australian handball community and the sport might suffer dramatically, but I have been inspired to see each part of the organisation – from the board of the Australian Handball Federation to the athletes, become even more motivated by the possibilities that now lie in front of us. I can only hope our motivation and refusal to be forgotten will lead to opportunity, and that our teams will one day earn their place at the World Championships again.

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Oceania Disappears from the IHF’s Atlas

Australian men's team at the 2013 World Championships... Their last appearance?

Australian men’s team at the 2013 World Championships… Their last appearance?

Team Handball News contributor, Altay Atli, addresses the recent IHF decision to retroactively give Australia’s World Championship’s slot to Germany

The recent decision of the International Handball Federation (IHF) to exclude Australia from the upcoming 2015 World Championships in Qatar (despite the fact that it has won the Oceania Handball Nations Cup in April thus officially qualifying for the big event) and replacing it with Germany (which has failed to qualify by losing both play-off games in the European competition against Poland) has drawn significant criticism, and rightfully so. The official statement released by the IHF attempts to justify the decision on the grounds that “There is currently no Continental Confederation in Oceania recognized by the International Handball Federation. Hence, the IHF Council decided to allocate the spot reserved for this continent to another National Federation on the principle of a wild card.”

This is an extremely weak argument and hardly legitimate as it leaves many questions unanswered: If there was a problem with the status of Oceanian handball organization, why was the decision taken after all the continental qualifiers have been completed? If there was no recognized continental confederation in Oceania, how is it possible that Australian teams have been participating in world championships since 1999? Did it take the IHF sixteen years to realize that there is no continental confederation in Oceania? How can one explain to a national federation, which is a member of IHF since 1988, that there is no way for them to go to the world championships even if they win all of the qualifier matches? The IHF’s decision is plain wrong, and agonizingly disappointing, not only for the Australians, but also for the entire world handball community, as it is a serious blow against the efforts to develop handball into a world sport. It seems that Oceania does not appear in IHF’s world atlas any more.

There is, however, another side of the coin; and no matter how wrong IHF’s decision appears to be, we need to think about the rationale behind it. Handball in Oceania is far from being competitive at the world level. Beating New Zealand is usually enough for the Australians to make their way to the world championships; and they do so easily, in April they won the qualification games with 22:18 and 32:18. With all due respect to the efforts of Oceania’s handballers, who work very hard to develop the game in their part of the world, we must accept that it should not be that easy to earn a ticket to the world championships.

This is, of course, not the Australians’ fault; and also, this does not by any means justify the decision to strip the Australia’s handballers from their well-earned right to play in Qatar in 2015. The Australian Handball Federation can see the situation; in its official statement after the IHF decision the governing body of handball in the land down under announced: “We welcome proposals from the IHF in terms of the development of the Oceania region to ensure that our Continent achieves full recognition by the IHF and that a competitive team from Oceania can take its place at the World Championships in the quickest possible time.”

In other words, it is not about giving back Australia its place in Qatar, but about ensuring that Australia (and other Oceanian nations) make a stronger entry into the world stage, playing more games, having the opportunity to improve their capabilities, and achieve progress, so that when Australia or any other team from the region goes to the world championship, it will be “competitive” against the teams from other continents. Australia’s handballers have been training very hard and doing the best they can, but to be honest, their world championship record remains abysmal. For example, the men’s team has participated in all world championships since 1999 (with the exception of 2001), it has played a total of 42 games in seven events, and with the exception of a win against Greenland in 2003, they have lost all their games. The scores do not indicate any progress either. In 1999, the Australian team’s average goal difference was minus 18.2 per game; in 2013 it was minus 26.1. For the women’s team of Australia, the picture is similar. 43 games in six world championships since 1999, lost all games, the average goal difference was minus 18.2 in 1999, rising to 31.3 in 2011, with a relatively successful 2013 event at minus 14.0 per game. In general, the gap is not narrowing, it is widening.

Australians do not want to go to world championships just for the sake of playing there; they want to make progress. The author of this article knows this very well, as he himself played in Australia for two years, supported the women’s team during its preparation phase before the Sydney Olympics, and witnessed how determined and serious Australians are to improve their standing in the handball world. They are currently on unstable ground: they can easily get out of Oceania, but they find it very difficult to compete against other continents. They need a balanced platform, and, in this author’s opinion, it can be achieved by integrating Oceania into the Asian competition for world championship qualifications. Oceanian events can be maintained and improved as this is the venue where progress can be achieved for Pacific island nations, but instead of going directly to the world event, Oceanian winners can be admitted into the Asian qualification round. In this way, they can play more games, gain more experience, and then if they can make their way to the world championships they will be in a more competitive position. In the meantime, efforts to establish a fully fledged and fully recognized Oceanian handball confederation will be helpful for establishing the administrative framework of handball development in the continent.

The IHF’s decision was wrong. It is unacceptable to retroactively strip a team from a right it has legitimately earned. But it is also not sustainable from the perspective of world handball, to have an Oceanian team to make its way to the world championships after winning one or two easy games at a regional competition. The Australian Handball Federation has already made it clear that what they want is a “competitive team from Oceania” to take part at the world stage, and there is no doubt that other national federations agree. It is now the IHF’s turn, to correct its mistake by ensuring that Oceanians can play more matches, in a more adequate competitive environment, so that they can build and improve their own competitive capacity. If we want to turn handball into a world sport, Oceania has to return to the IHF’s world atlas.

For more information check out the ” Give Australian Handball its Rightful Place at Qatar 2015″ Facebook page:  Link

Overwhelmed teams from Cook Islands and Australia remain enthusiastic

When I wrote about the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) a few days ago, I mentioned the heavy losses that the girls from Australia and the boys from Cook Islands incurred in their first games. I also contrasted the IHF approach, with the top teams from all the other continents participating, while FIFA in football went for the real ‘grassroots’ in each continent. (In football, the girls from Equatorial Guinea won silver after losing the final after a penalty shoot-out, and Haiti will play in the final for the boys).

The team from Cook Islands apparently was not invited from the outset. There are media reports that New Zealand was the intended representative for Oceania, but that this was not supported by that country’s Olympic Committee. It is rumored that they still do not consider the controversy with two competing national federations fully settled, even after the IHF took sides. Anyway, Cook Islands got the opportunity and had to scramble to find the necessary resources. Their participation had an enthusiastic backing from their entire population and the following newspaper reports tell us a charming story about the fund raising. http://www.ciherald.co.ck/articles/h522o.htm http://www.ciherald.co.ck/articles/h524k.htm

Cook Islands has been a member of the IHF since 1999, and they have an Olympic Committee. http://www.sportingpulse.com/assoc_page.cgi?assoc=3844&pID=2 But their plans were to send just two swimmers and two sailors to the YOG, so they were not prepared for the expenses of adding 14 handball players. In handball, Cook Islands participated this year in the qualifying for the World Championship in Sweden, but they lost to Australia (13-41 and 7-46) and New Zealand (21-36 and 12-31). The only time handball players from Cook Islands had previously ventured outside Oceania was for a participation in Partille Cup in 2007. There they became everyone’s favorites with their friendly and cheerful attitude, including dance exhibitions and a band of drummers. Their team in ‘Boys 18’ lost narrowly to Brazilian opponents in the B playoffs. The results were respectable also for their ‘Girls 16’, who were eliminated by Glostrup (DEN).

In the YOG the boys had the tough task of facing France and Korea in group play, and these opponents did not seem to hold back. The results were 4-58 against France http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Sport/Story/STIStory_569090.html and 4-70 against Korea. But in the double matches for 5th place against the home team Singapore, they showed they had not lost their spirit. The results were much more respectable: 20-27 and 18-32. Clearly one also needs to take into account that playing 4 full matches in 5 days is quite demanding for an inexperienced team. The best goal scorer was Tapi Mataora and Peter Kermode. We wish our friends from Cook Islands continued progress and enjoyment in their handball endeavors. For more information about Cook Islands, see: http://www.ck/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cook_Islands

Australia has a somewhat longer tradition and greater experience in handball, having represented Oceania at numerous World Championships in different categories. They do not expect to win medals, but their enthusiastic style of play has gained them friends everywhere. My own most recent experience with an Australian team was in the Men’s World Championship in Germany in 2007. They were outmatched in the group play, but the handball fans in Magdeburg, who recognize a spirited effort when they see one, really made the Australians into their favorite team and gave them loud support in every match. When one day the positive attitude is matched by more international match experience, then the Australians may become a force to be reckoned with.

But the girls participating in the YOG were clearly lacking in experience. As you will hear in the following YouTube clip, they had hardly practiced together before as a team.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MykHBsieG2k But again, they relished the opportunity to participate, and they are not likely to have had their fighting spirit diminished by the results. They lost in group play with 4-41 against Denmark and 16-45 against Kazakhstan. In the double matches against Angola, the top African country in women’s handball, they were beaten 12-37 and 12-39. One would hope that this young team will have the chance to develop together and improve gradually. The best scorer on the team was Victoria Fletcher.

Alex Gavrilovic: a true fighter for the global progress of handball (Part 2 of 3)

This is a continuation from an earlier installment. Here the focus is mostly on the current situation in Australia and Oceania.

It is then an interesting coincidence that the Australian women’s team is right now going through their final preparations for the women’s world championship in China. So before we get into today’s interview segment, you may want to try this link to an article on the Australian federation’s web site: http://www.handballaustralia.org.au/National%20Womens%20Team.html#Team Naturally, we wish our Aussie friends the very best of luck in this tough competition!

[i]CA: Having continued to play a key role both in your country and in the region, you took over as President of the Australian Handball Federation in 2006. You recently had to resign from that post, due to your upcoming engagement in London. From that perspective, how would you describe overall the current status of handball in Australia? [/i]

AG: As I noted earlier, the overall status of handball in Australia is still that of a “minor” sport. Participation levels have increased overall, particularly in schools, however, this is not translating into significant junior numbers outside the school system. Handball clubs around Australia remain small and composed of dedicated but under-resourced athletes. The State and National teams are remaining competitive but struggle to get financial support, therefore, athlete “burn-out” occurs, particularly in financial terms, with athletes being asked to contribute too much of their own money in support of their national and international competition

[i]CA: What are the stronger aspects and what are the ones that need particular attention?[/i]

AG: Our strongest aspect is that we have a small but dedicated AHF Board, which, although amateur, provides effective leadership for the sport. As a result, local club and State competition tends to be well run although it is low-budget and low profile. We have some excellent athletes competing but, again, the selection pool is small, therefore, it is difficult to send 16 high-quality athletes to international competition and therefore difficult to be truly competitive on the world scene.

Handball in Australia still needs to reach the “tipping point” to become an established broad participation sport. The link between school handball and club handball is still weak or missing. Proper funding of talent identification, elite athlete development, elite training facilities and access to sports science, “institute” programs, regular high level international competition, etc. are still elements that need attention. Australia organises regular international events which are well-run but remain low profile. In summary: more effort is required in broad participation development, elite athlete development and programs and achieving appropriate funding for the sport.

[i]CA: As in so many other sports, Australian handball is affected by its geographic isolation; are there any real ways of compensating for this handicap?[/i]

AG: Yes there is. Clearly the “major” sports of Rugby and Cricket, for example, are continuing to grow and attract teams from around the world. Their advantage is that they have the membership, profile and exposure which ensures sponsorship and funding levels that can sustain events for which the high cost of travel to and from Australia can be overcome. Ultimately, proper funding can compensate for the handicap.

In the meantime, attracting “major” handball nations to Australia for competition is still problematic due to the high cost of coming to Australia, related to our distance from the rest of the handball world. I don’t know that I can “blame” the IHF for that nor that we can expect the IHF to assist us to overcome this issue directly. However, I know that the IHF is keen for Australia to host a World Championship in due time, therefore, there will be another opportunity for the IHF to support the development of the sport in this way.

[i]CA: Also as in other sports, while struggling with its own development and resources, Australia tends to be needed as the ‘engine’ for other countries in Oceania; how do you see the overall development in recent time in Oceania and what can Australia do in this regard?[/i]

AG: I have already indicated that there has been a resurgence of international competition within Oceania and this has proven to be a real boost for us and the other nations in the region. However, issues related to the leadership of the Oceania Handball Federation have, in my opinion, held the development of the sport at a regional level back for many years. I am pleased to say that the Oceania Handball Federation has recently been restructured, new officials elected and a new Constitution adopted. The IHF have made an even stronger commitment to support international events as a result. The current AHF President, Paul Smith, has been elected to the Presidency of the Oceania Handball Federation, to use his words: “at the insistence of the other Oceania nations”, so you can see that Australia is seen very much in a leadership role.

[i]CA: In soccer, Australia decided to join Asia. (And now we have the effect that Australia has qualified for the 2010 World Cup as one of the Asian representatives, while New Zealand just qualified from Oceania.) Has the same idea ever come up in handball? [/i]

AG: Football in Australia is enjoying a great revival. (even to the common use of the name “football” rather than “soccer”!) It has for a long time been a major participation sports in Australia, but this was not reflected in the sport’s profile or international performance. The recent changes, including better structure at the peak, more funding, a new national competition, commitment to elite level performance etc., have been reflected in the national team’s improved results. This of course has re-invigorated public interest. It is still behind Rugby but getting stronger every year. The national team’s exposure to the Asian competition has significantly lifted performance.

There was an idea to emulate Australian football by having Australian handball join the Asian handball zone. This proposal was rejected by the Asian Handball Federation. I sense a fear that Australian handball will eventually improve like it has in many sports and result in a dominant Australia at the cost of other Asian teams in qualifiers for World Championships and so on. The advantage of not being a member of Asia is that there is a direct Oceania handball spot for World Championships which Australia can fill due to its dominance in the region. Whilst I understand the benefits of more competition via the Asian zone, the reality is that Australia would struggle to qualify for World and Olympic Championships via this zone and therefore, having an Oceania place remains very important and valuable to Australia at this time.

Oceania Update: Australia women qualify for 2009 WC; NZ Handball Federation recognized by the IHF

The Australian women won the Pacific Cup Tournament which took place from 26-31 May in Brisbane, Australia. The Australian women won all 6 of their matches by an average of 14 goals and clearly demonstrated that they have the best national team in the Oceania region.

[b]Final Standings[/b]
Australia 6-0-0
Queensland 4-0-2
NZ Handball Federation 2-0-4
Handball NZ 0-0-6

Detailed Results: http://www.handballaustralia.org.au/events.html#2009_PC_And_JN

The tournament also has traditionally served as the Oceania qualification tournament for the World Championships, but Australia was the only IHF recognized nation participating. The 2 New Zealand teams, Handball New Zealand and the New Zealand Handball Federation represented competing New Zealand handball interests. Until recently Handball New Zealand was recognized by the IHF and the NZ Olympic Committee. Handball New Zealand, however, is closely aligned with Vern Winitana, the Oceania Handball Federation (OHF) President who was recently kicked off the IHF Council. Not surprisingly, the IHF recognized the NZ Handball Federation at the IHF Congress the following week. This move was briefly mentioned in an IHF posting on the Congress and is the current lead story on the NZ Handball Federation webpage. Vern Winitana, in response to an email query, indicated that the IHF is not supposed to recognize organizations which are not recognized by their nation’s Olympic Committee. Additionally, the status of the OHF as a part of the IHF is unclear and the Pacific Cup tournament was not conducted as an official OHF event.

The NZ Handball Federation as of this posting, has not responded to email requests for clarification.

New Zealand Handball Federation: http://www.handball.net.nz/cms/

Australia on Target to Win Oceania Championship

Australia shook off an opening match, 20-15 loss to New Caledonia to easily beat the Cook Islands 32-11 at the Oceania Championships Tuesday in Wellington, New Zealand. Coupled with the Cook Islands earlier 26-22 defeat of New Zealand, Australia is virtually assured of winning the championship and the accompanying automatic ticket to the World Championships in Croatia next January. (New Zealand would need a 13 goal victory over Australia on Thursday to bump Australia)

New Caledonia, a territory of France and an Associate Member of the Oceania Federation will likely sweep the competition and win the Nations Cup. Australia has beaten New Caledonia previously, but due to the scheduling dates of the tournament, their European based players are not available and they are fielding a developmental team.

Australia Secures Oceania Ticket for 2007 Men’s World Championships

As expected, Australia has qualified for the 2007 Men’s World Championships by easily defeating both New Zealand (41-14) and the Cook Islands (63-5) in round robin competition in Dural, Australia (near Sidney). http://handballpacificcup.com/results.htm Stay tuned. We hope to soon have a podcast interview with the Australian Handball Federation reviewing the results of the Pacific Cup and Australia’s prospects for the World Championships.