The Australian Open Club Championship was held in Geelong, Victoria from May 24 to 27, and saw Sydney University Handball Club take the men’s trophy, while Melbourne HC celebrated the women’s title. With teams from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia on the court, the event is the biggest on the Oceania handball calendar – and the 2018 edition was once again a considerable success.
“The tournament was very well organised and I noticed a marked improvement in the quality of teams. There are some exciting young players in all of the teams,” said Kosovo and former Australia men’s national coach Taip Ramadani, who lent his expertise to Sydney Uni as one of the two coaches, alongside Lionel Puyhardy, for the event.
“It’s important for the young handball players in Australia to be exposed to more regular competition of this level throughout the year, as I am convinced this is the only way for them to develop their talent.
“I was very impressed by the athleticism in some of the players, but the standout aspect was the passion with which the game was played. It was great to be part of this. I think we are in a better position than we were last year, so we need to invest in more regular competitions to ensure handball thrives in Australia.”
Sydney Uni’s victory at the AOCC means they will contest the IHF Super Globe, the equivalent of the world club championship, for the seventh time in Qatar this October. Sydney Uni will represent Oceania at the event, alongside African Champions League winners Zamalek (Egypt), Asian Club League Championship winners Al-Najma Club (Bahrain), Pan American Club Championship winners Handebol Taubate (Brazil), Europe’s Champions League winners Montpellier HB (France) and defending Super Globe champions FC Barcelona (Spain). Two sides to contest the 2018 Super Globe are yet to be named.
Sydney Uni won the final against UTS 30:14, after beating UQ Handball 24:15 in the semi-final. They were undefeated in the preliminary matches, collecting victories against Handball West (33:20), UTS HC 2 (38:19) and St Kilda (23:16). UQ Handball took on St Kilda in the bronze-medal match, winning 24:23.
The women’s AOCC trophy was certain to be reclaimed by an Australian team after Melbourne HC and UQ Handball qualified for the final. In 2017, it was New Caledonian side AS Dumbea that took the title. Melbourne defeated UQ 18:13 in a low-scoring match to win the gold medal, while Handball West beat New Caledonian side JS Mont Dore 25:13 in the 3/4 game.
“I think our performance was fairly impressive considering that UQ haven’t brought a women’s team to the AOCC before. We had a major player have an injury in the second game, and throughout the game we had multiple injuries,” said UQ coach Todd Morschel. “I’m pretty happy – unfortunately we couldn’t get the result, but overall a pretty impressive weekend for UQ.”
By Courtney Gahan