Sydney University Handball Club finished their first tour of Europe, which culminated in their participation in the Limburg Handbal Dagen tournament in the Netherlands.
Oceania champions Sydney University Handball Club wrapped up their first-ever tour of Europe this week, which included a series of friendly matches and culminated in the Limburg Handbal Dagen tournament in the Netherlands. In Germany the team played against HG Oftersheim/Schwetzingen, HRW Laupheim and HSG Winzingen/Wissgoldingen, and in France they faced HBC Sarrebourg, winning all four preparation matches.
“We played in Germany – three matches in Germany, and we won three of them, and one in France,” says head coach for the tour and assistant coach from the 2015 IHF Super Globe, Adam Molenda. “We played two in the fourth league in Germany, and then a very good level in France as well. We have a pretty new team – six new players – so they needed to integrate, and they did very well, so that was the preparation for this tournament [Limburg Handbal Dagen].”
It was the 28th edition of the Limburg Handbal Dagen (LHD) tournament, with eight teams participating in a group phase format followed by finals on the third day of competition on December 29. LHD this year attracted clubs from several nations, including Romania, Serbia, Portugal, Norway, Czech Republic and the Netherlands – including the current Dutch champions and the 2014 winners of the national league – along with the Australian side.
Sydney Uni had mixed results, with three losses in which the final score lines did not reflect the solid fight put up by the Australian team through the first 45 to 50 minutes of play. Viking Handball (NOR), Dutch champions the OCI-Nitrogen Lions (NED), and HC Dukla Praha were the three teams to undo Sydney Uni before the team regrouped to win their last game, against Serbia’s RK ‘Sloga’ Pozega.
“At this tournament in the first two matches we had the chance [to win] but we kind of lost stamina at the end of them. Yesterday against Dukla Praha, we should have won this game,” says Molenda. “We lost by just two goals difference. I’m very happy because the team came back together after they lost three games in a row and then we managed to win today.”
The LHD tournament has a rather unusual format, with a fast break shootout taking place after every group phase match, offering the teams an additional opportunity to win points for the table. Though Sydney Uni lost their three preliminary games, they won the shootouts against local side, the Lions, and Praha, proving particularly adept at trick shots that were visibly a source of enjoyment for the enthusiastic crowd.
By the end of the second match day it was clear Sydney Uni were a crowd favourite, and they became even more so when they stayed on court after their game against Pozega to warm up and support the G-Handball – an irregular competition for the players with an intellectual disability that began in the Limburg province several years ago – match. Sydney Uni goalkeepers Maikel Takken and Martin Jomin were then pummelled with goals as they participated in the traditional LHD shootout with the G-Handball players, and after the final whistle was blown the Australian side took their turn to ask for autographs.
Natasja Bekker, the organiser for activities surrounding LHD, which include plenty of fun for children in particular and the demonstration G-Handball matches, said they hope to be able to soon start a regular competition for G-Handball players in Limburg, with five clubs currently in operation.
“The players really love it, they enjoy it. It was great to see how the Australian guys integrated,” said Bekker after the on-court fun wrapped up.
The LHD tournament ended on a high for Sydney Uni, and Molenda says the team look forward to participating in more competitions such as this.
“The level is there – it’s a good level. I’m very happy we matched the level,” says the coach. “I don’t think any of the teams were much, much better than we are. I think if we had the opportunity to train, even two weeks before this tournament – just train – we definitely would achieve much more.
“I can see the Sydney University team in the top three at this tournament for sure. The level is there, I’m happy we matched the level, and I’m looking for more tournaments like this for us because this is where we actually learn. We are learning about the team, we are learning about game set-up, what we can do, what we cannot do – it’s good.”