After three days of exciting competition in Sydney, the stage is set for the 2016 Handball Australia Nationals finals with South Australia meeting New South Wales to battle for the men’s title, and Victoria and Queensland playing for the women’s trophy.
Victoria are the only team able to defend their title after they were champions in 2015 alongside the men’s squad from their state, but back and line player Ana Medjed expects that doing so against Queensland will be a challenge:
“We already played them – the first game at Nationals and that was really tough, but in the end we got a good result and we were really happy with how we played. So we have an idea of how to play, how to go against them.”
Victoria enter the women’s final as the only team to have won all their matches at the event, which is taking place at Blacktown Leisure Centre, Stanhope Gardens. After opening with a five-goal win against Queensland, they continued with victories over South Australia, New Zealand, Australian Capital Territory and finally New South Wales to make their way to the ultimate match on Sunday afternoon.
“We have a team that’s been playing together for a couple of years now. I think we’ve been playing really well – good structure, good pace. The girls are really fit which is really good.” says Medjed. “In general, we just know each other really well, and we’re used to playing together, so we’re really happy with how everything is going.”
The men’s final will be played following the women’s, with New South Wales hoping to capitalise on the home support to defeat South Australia for the second time at the 2016 Nationals. NSW coach Adrian van Bussel says his team have been improving their game through their campaign (which has included wins against South Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Queensland, and a draw versus Western Australia) and hopes that will continue when they take to the court for the final on October 9:
“It’s been getting better as we go on. We had good preparation beforehand, but our defence is becoming more solid and our attack is better in the combinations as well.”
Van Bussel knows his team have to approach their final just as Victoria will theirs – with the confidence of a win in the first match against their final opponents, and awareness that this is a brand new game in which anything can happen.
“I think the game tomorrow will be very different to the one we played today against South Australia,” says the NSW coach. “Yes, we did beat them but we can’t go in complacent – they’ll come out all guns blazing, as we hope to do as well, but it will be a very different game. More physical probably than today, so we just need to bring the physicality to them as well.”
Follow the 2016 Handball Australian Nationals on Handball Australia’s Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as on the New South Wales Handball Association Facebook.
By Courtney Gahan