Australian and New Zealand handball players duel for possession during the Oceania Challenge Trophy final in Ipswich.
Australian and New Zealand handball players duel for possession during the Oceania Challenge Trophy final in Ipswich.

Handball proves a hit in Ipswich

AS A sports buff, it’s always enjoyable seeing skilful games at close range.

When they are international sports being developed in Australia, it’s even more intriguing.

That’s been the case in Ipswich over the past week with the International Handball Federation (IHF) Oceania Challenge Trophy tournament.

While I’d watched handball with interest at past Olympic Games, it was terrific seeing the men’s under 20 competition played at the Redbank and Collingwood Sports Complex.

The matches may not have been as fast as what’s played in Europe, but they were physical and tactical.

The strategy quickly became apparent speaking regularly to astute Australian coach Jason Hoppner.

He frequently referred to structures and game plans to improve Australia’s play.

He spoke confidently about attacking patterns and reducing defensive deficiencies.

Despite handball being a relatively unknown sport in Queensland, it provides an entertaining spectacle.

The tough tackling, hand co-ordination and speed around the court require fitness, timing and stamina.

Internationally, handball is one of the most popular sports. It’s probably the equivalent overseas of rugby league or cricket in Australia.

While it has huge overseas appeal, handball has a long way to go to gain widespread acceptance in Australia.

But having seen what was on offer last week in Ipswich, it has a future in this country.

The sport has a major backer in clothing manufacturer Hummel, as well as support from Rehband, Skins and the Australian Olympic Committee.

Dedicated people – including Ipswich father and son Paul and Nathaniel Smith – are toiling hard to spread the word.

However, to improve its standing in Australia, handball needs to be played in the school system and regional competitions.

Basketballers could probably adapt quickly to the game, as could fleet-footed futsal players, who are used to being on indoor courts.

Played properly, handball is challenging and rewarding – especially with a high number of goals on offer.

The ball can travel quickly and goalkeepers need agility and an acute sense of anticipation.

The attacking players leap through the air like volleyballers in full flight.

Australia may one day become a reputable Olympic handball nation, as we have in so many other sports. We can dare to dream.

But good luck to those people for bringing a fresh, exciting game to Ipswich.



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