Australia moves into placement round
Australian team defends against Bahrain

In what is their first appearance at the Asian Men’s Olympic Qualification, Australia have been knocked out of contention for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – but the tournament is serving as an important step in the right direction nevertheless.

After an interesting lead-up to the competition, which began on November 14 in Doha, Qatar, Australia arrived with a number of new sponsors on their jersey including Füchse Berlin and artischock.net, and determination to put their best foot forward on the newly-instated Olympic qualification pathway for the region.

Despite a significant fundraising effort, led by players Sebastien Traverso and Tomas Gerstch, the Aussie Crocs were hindered by financial constraints and injuries that meant coach Jan Ottosen could take a squad of only 11 players. The odds were therefore difficult, but the Aussie Crocs have been fighting hard against the more established teams they are up against.

The group phase at the Asian Men’s Olympic Qualification finished at the weekend with Australia bowing out after losses to China (29:24), Iraq (32:19), South Korea (35:16) and Bahrain (33:11), and now preparing for the placement round of matches.

“As a captain I'm really proud of what the team has achieved so far. We are actually building our game since Kosovo (Emerging Nations) and didn't drop our performance,” says team captain Tomasz Szklarski.

”It's sad that we don't have a full team to show our full potential, but we are fighting to the last second with what we have. We are looking forward to our next game and what we can promise is that we will fight till the end.”

Australia’s next match will be played on Wednesday November 25 against Uzbekistan.

“We are now stepping in to the second round of the tournament, and we have to face Uzbekistan in the match for 11th place. If we win this match, we will meet Oman for 9/10 place,” says Ottosen, continuing with his analysis of the tournament so far from Australia’s perspective.

“We started the tournament against China, who were probably the team we had the biggest chance against. They had at that stage been together for two weeks in Qatar, and time before that in China. We came together the day before the match, and with three and now four new players debuting in the team, and two more not with us in Kosovo, it has again been a new team to put together.

“If we had China now, we think we would be the winning team after the match because we have been having some good training together, and really bonded as a team. We have also worked in the same direction as we did both for NZ [Oceania qualification for Qatar 2015] and in Kosovo, so now we have a big group of players that have tried our game strategy, and we will be better off for the next tours we are going on since almost every player in our eyes for the national team has tried it.”

Courtney Gahan

Photo credit: Malak Aljawharah