2018 begins with an important event for Australian handball, as the men’s national team prepare to make their debut at the Asian Men’s Championship in January. The 18th Asian Men’s Championship will be held in Suwon, South Korea, and for the first time will see teams from the Oceania region competing after the qualification pathway for the IHF Men’s World Championship was redefined in 2015.
Australia will begin their campaign in Group B, where they will meet 2010, 2014 and 2016 Asian Championship silver medallists Bahrain (coached by 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson) Oman, and Uzbekistan. Fellow Oceania side New Zealand, for whom it is the first major international tournament outside of the continent, will compete from Group D alongside 2016 World Championship runners-up Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and People’s Republic of China.
Australia have undergone a rebuilding phase since the change to the World Championship qualification pathway, and eight of the 16 players travelling to Suwon will play their maiden game for the senior national team at the event. Coach Ante Jelicic will also make his debut on the Australia bench, joined by his assistant, fellow Croatian Ante Plazibat.
Jelicic had a successful playing career with RK Hvar, RK Jelsa and RK Split before changing his focus to coaching, gaining certifications recognised by both the European Handball Federation and International Handball Federation. His mentor, Plazibat, has coached first division teams in Croatia (including Split, Trogir, Solin and Hrvastski Drogovaljc Dugi Rat) Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
The Australia team for the 2018 Men’s Asian Championship is named as follows:
Goalkeepers: Kristofer Karlsson (Kungsangen SK (SWE)), Thomas Gerstch (Saint Kilda HC)
Pivots: Karl Warrener (UTS), Ioannis Niarhakos (DC Diplomats (USA))
Right wings: Jarrad Borland (Wolves HC), Tomas Atchison (Wolves HC), Sebastien Traverso (Sydney University HC)
Right backs: Timothy Anderson (HV-RW Laupheim (GER))
Centre backs: Scott Marshall (Wolves HC), Sebastian Bures (Saint Kilda HC)
Left backs: Caleb Gahan (Wolves HC), Jarrod Stafford (Deakin HC), Tomasz Szklarski (Sydney University HC)
Left wings: James Korthal (Wolves HC), Stephane Tabardin (Saint Kilda HC), Lucas Bastin (Holte IF (DEN)
The 2018 Asian Men’s Championship begins on January 18 and runs through to January 28. Fans can follow the Australia team on their official Instagram and Facebook. There is also a crowdfunding campaign to assist the self-funded team where supporters can make tax-deductible donations on Australian Sports Foundation site.
Text: Courtney Gahan
Photo credit: Linda Lee Hofer