The 2018 IHF Trophy Oceania for youth and junior teams took place in June in New Caledonia. Australia competed in both groups, with the juniors finishing first and the youth side ranking third behind New Zealand and New Caledonia.
Coach of the junior squad, who also led the preparation for the youth side, Ricki Lyngsøe said that tournaments like these are important for the development of the sport in Australia.
“I was very pleased with the Under 20s performance. We were tactically better than the other teams. We learned a lot about what it takes to be competitive and how to be able to adapt to different tactical approaches during matches,” said Lyngsøe. “The Under 18s were a completely new team, and they developed fantastically.”
The first game for Australia saw the Under 18 team take on hosts New Caledonia. With many players on the team debuting on an international level, the competition ended up being too tough for them, and New Caledonia took the win 37:23. For the Under 20 squad, their opening match saw an exciting 60 minutes against Tahiti, where the goals followed each other closely, but Australia managed to draw the longest straw winning 28:26.
The following day both teams geared up again, with the Under 18s taking on Cook Islands and finishing with a comfortable win at 35:3. The result gave the young players confidence as they moved forward to their next match. The Under 20s had a much closer game against New Caledonia, claiming the victory with a 28:24 score at full-time.
On day three, the Australia Under 18s faced Papua New Guinea. The green and gold held the lead throughout the game, finishing with a 33:27 win. The Under 20s had an exhilarating match against the Kiwis, where Australia managed to pull it ashore, winning 22:16.
The fourth day of the tournament saw both the junior and youth teams playing against Fiji, with a full-time score of 34:15 for the Australian Under 18s and the Under 20s following the success with a 30:18 victory.
On the last day of the competition, the Under 18s took on New Zealand, who might have been the strongest opponent this year, which unfortunately showed in the results. Australia gave it their all but ended up seeing a 25:11 win for the Kiwis. As for the Under 20s, their game ended in yet another victory, with a full-time score of 25:10 against the Cook Islands, which meant an undefeated run for the Australia junior team.
“In the Under 20s, New Caledonia and Tahiti, the two French Territories, were very strong. They had many good players to choose from. There were many talented players in the Under 18 cat-egory and it will be interesting to follow their development,” said Lyngsøe. “The different types of handball played at this tournament was quite an experience to watch.”
In the Under 18 category, Australia placed third behind New Zealand and New Caledonia, and in front of Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands. The Under 20s celebrated first after their victorious run through the competition, followed by Tahiti, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Fiji and Cook Islands. The junior side will now contest the IHF Trophy Intercontinental Phase, where they will have the chance to qualify for the 2019 IHF Men’s Junior (U21) World Championship.
Lyngsøe said he is hoping to keep all the players together for as long as possible, and that the great results from the Under 20s will help inspire the younger team members. “The IHF Trophy is essential for Australia to have national teams in handball; without the Trophy we would have very little to develop towards.”
Text by: Birthe Skingen / Edit: Courtney Gahan