The Australia men’s team finished their campaign at the 2018 Asian Men’s Handball Championship in 11th place, following two wins in the placement round, against Bangladesh and India.
After completion of the preliminary round on January 20, when Australia ranked third in Group B behind Bahrain and Oman, the team joined Group 4 alongside China and Bangladesh. Australia took their first win of the tournament against Bangladesh, after turning a narrow 16:15 lead into a decisive 35:22 victory.
Tim Anderson scored seven goals towards Australia’s win versus Bangladesh, and credited the improved defence and faster transitions in the second half with earning the victory.
“We came in with a game plan to move the ball around, but we weren’t doing it effectively. There was no drive, there was no pressure on goal. The second half completely changed,” said Anderson. “When we come with a bit of speed, we’re hard to stop. You’ve got myself and Caleb [Gahan] running the back line, you had guys able to come in with speed and put on a lot of pressure. That really showed in the second half and at the end in the score.
“We’ve got that winning feeling, and that’s something we, as a team, don’t always get in the middle of a tournament.”
The team had hoped the positive result against Bangladesh would be built upon when they met China, but the match ended with a 26:16 (14:8) win for Australia’s opponents.
“I thought we brought a lot of energy into the game. The vibe was up, we had a good mood going around the team, morale was good. We had a good start to the game and a good start to the second half,” said Australia’s top scorer in the match, Karl Warrener (four goals), before commenting on the next and last match of the tournament in Suwon, South Korea:
“We’re heading up against India on Australia Day. It’s going to be a good battle for 11th place. We definitely have to bring the same energy.”
Australia finished their campaign strong with the victory they hoped for against India, with a 27:24 result in their favour after trailing 10:12 at half-time. Tomasz Szklarski scored 10 goals and was named MVP of the match.
“If we look at the first and second half, the best thing we did was come back from the big goal deficit. We were strong, very strong in defence, and we ran the fast breaks,” was Szklarski’s view of what won Australia the match. “In the attack it was the last man – we looked always to the 100% shot, we didn’t take silly opportunities. In defence, it was working together in the middle, compact in the middle, that made the last defenders’ job to keep the wings easier.”
Overall, the team left Suwon positive and motivated to work towards the future. “We definitely know what we have to improve, what we have to work on. The team is, I would say, in a rebuilding position, with a lot of young people. We just need to make sure those young people come in strong, encourage them to train harder and get ready for the next tournament,” concluded Szklarski.
The 2018 Asian Men’s Handball Championship was won by Qatar, who claimed their third title. Australia’s fellow Group B participants, Bahrain, took the silver medal, while hosts South Korea finished with bronze after defeating Saudi Arabia in the 3/4 play-off.
Text: Courtney Gahan
Photo credit: Asian Handball Federation