Australian Open Club Championship set for throw-off

The Australian Open Club Championship begins today in Geelong, Victoria, with eight men’s teams and six women’s sides from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia ready to contest the titles. Last year, Sydney University Handball Club claimed their sixth trophy in the men’s event, while AS Dumbea from New Caledonia won the women’s competition.

The AOCC will run from May 24 to 27 at Corio Leisure Time Centre, and entry is free for all. Alongside the round-robin matches and finals, to be played on Sunday, there will be fringe events including a wheelchair handball exhibition match.

Sport and Recreation Victoria has contributed significant funding toward the event, helping to develop the rapidly growing international competition further. The AOCC is the biggest handball competition to be staged in Australia since the 2000 Olympic Games, with over 250 players participating.

“We are very happy the state government has recognised our hard work and efforts. This will make our tournament an even better experience,” says Vice-President of Handball Victoria Sebastian Bures.

“We will give 100% against any opponent”

The prize in the men’s competition is not limited to the trophy, as the winning team will also secure a place at the 2018 IHF Super Globe, to be held in Qatar in October. Sydney Uni have represented Oceania at the annual Super Globe every year since 2012 and are out to do the same again – amid tough competition at the AOCC.

“Sydney University HC, like every year will fight for the best result. The team is looking quite strong, especially in terms of defence. Like every year we will have a few new players but the core of the team this year will be similar to our squad last year,” says Sydney Uni utility player Tomasz Szklarski.

“In terms of coaching, we are lucky to have two experienced coaches: from the previous year Lionel Puyhardy and Taip Ramadani [head coach of the Kosovo national team], who agreed to help Sydney Uni this year.

“In Geelong, like every year, we don’t want to underestimate any opponent. In our group we will face St Kilda. That team is always strong and well prepared for this tournament. In other groups there is UTS, finalists from last year. I think they will try to repeat their success and will be hard to play against, and of course, there is the University of Queensland (combined with Wolves to my knowledge). That team was always unpredictable and have a mix of young and experienced players. In my eyes, these teams will be setting up the pace of the tournament, but as I said at the beginning, we will give 100% against any opponent.”

More information on the AOCC can be found on the official website handballaocc.com.au.

By Courtney Gahan