Handball Australia has announced the 16-member national team to represent Australia at the 20th Asian Men’s Handball Championship to be held in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, 18-31 January 2022.
This will be the team’s first return to the international scene since the 19th Asian Men’s Handball Championship held in Kuwait in January 2020, where the team placed 12th.
The team is coached by former national team player, national team coach (2009-2013), and Kosovo national team coach (2016-2020), Taip Ramadani, and assisted by the former coach of Singapore and New Zealand, Eoin Murray. The team includes players based in Australia, Germany, Norway, and Denmark. Four players will be making their international debut with the senior team.
“It’s exciting to prepare the squad for an international event, after such a long break from competition, and it has been amazing to see the positive response from the players despite all the challenges in the last two years,” said Taip Ramadani.
“Congratulations to all of the players selected. It’s a special privilege to represent your country at a major international tournament, and one they will always remember with pride. I am grateful to have this opportunity to lead this group of players into the new era of Australian Handball.”
“The team is made up of experienced players and those taking their first steps in the national team, but also experienced players who will be making their international debut in Saudi Arabia. There is an exciting surprise in the mix, and I am convinced each member brings great value to the team.“
Liam McCourt set to make international debut
One of those making their senior international debut is Liam McCourt. McCourt represented Australia at a junior level, including the 2019 Junior Handball World Championship, in Spain, where he top-scored for Australia.
“To be selected for the senior national team means a lot to me. Being in the junior team was an unforgettable experience, but now I feel ready for my role in the senior team. I am very excited to be part of this team for the first time,” said McCourt.
“I am expecting that we will have a good tournament and gain more international experience. It will be good for the team to get practice and time together. And hopefully, we can build up some good results and work on them.”
McCourt is currently with Norwegian club Tromsø HK, alongside his younger brother, Tim, who was also a candidate for selection, but a recent knee injury ruled him out of contention.
Tomasz Szklarski: Handball is a style of life
Covid-19 pandemic international and domestic border restrictions have curtailed national squad camps, with the squad not having had the opportunity to work together since the 19th Asian Men’s Handball Championships campaign, in January 2020, wrapped up.
One player that has felt the full effects of these restrictions is Tomasz Szklarski.
“Handball is a style of life for me, and it feels great to get that life back. Stepping on the court, to represent the country I love, is an amazing feeling that is hard to express in words,” said Szklarski.
“This will be a good opportunity to show to the world that we are a team on the rise. We will continue to improve and build confidence for major international tournaments. Our main goal is to perform well and achieve our best result at the championship.”
Szklarski has represented Australia 23 times and has 119 goals to his name in the green and gold.
An incredible comeback by Saša Šestić
The biggest surprise in the unveiling of the team has been the inclusion of veteran player Saša Šestić, who will be returning to national representation for the first time since the 2003 Handball World Championship in Portugal.
Šestić is a high-impact player whose experience in elite-level handball and international competitions will be a huge boost for the team.
“To be able to represent Australia again, after such a long time, feels amazing. These days I’m enjoying handball so much, and I appreciate every moment on the court a lot more than I did in my early days in the national team,” said Šestić.
“When I look at the team now, it’s not only a matter of how many goals we score, will we win or lose, but it’s more about creating the amazing culture and team, and creating an inspiring space for the next generation of players, and this is why I am so excited to be able to be part of this adventure.”
At the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Šestić was Australia’s youngest player and was known for his strength and powerful jump, something he is keen to put on display again.
In his 28 appearances in the national team, he has scored 91 goals. An incredible achievement considering most of these appearances have been at the top end of international handball, against some of the best teams in the world.
Australia has been drawn in Pool B where they will face hosts Saudi Arabia, Iran, and India, in their bid to qualify for the main round.
|Timothy Anderson||Right back||HRW Laupheim (GER)||34||101|
|Lucas Bastin||Left wing||Rudersdal Håndbold (DEN)||5||15|
|Avery Edmunds||Goalkeeper||Lillehammer FH 09 (NOR)||14||0|
|Caleb Gahan||Left back||University of Queensland HC||33||104|
|Thomas Gerstch||Goalkeeper||St Kilda HC||19||0|
|Hamish Langenberg||Right wing||Brisbane HC||0||0|
|Alexander Lynch||Goalkeeper||UNSW HC||6||0|
|Liam McCourt||Centre back||Tromsø HK (NOR)||0||0|
|Felipe Oliveira||Pivot||Sydney University HC||0||0|
|Pavle Prokić||Left wing||University of Queensland HC||6||3|
|Keelan Smith-Connor||Pivot||UNSW HC||6||2|
|Saša Šestić||Left back||Canberra Handball||28||91|
|Tomasz Szklarski||Centre back||Sydney University HC||23||119|
|Richard Thevenot||Right back||Sydney University HC||0||0|
|Sebastien Traverso||Right wing||Sydney University HC||13||17|
|Karl Warrener||Pivot||Canberra Handball||11||42|
Head Coach: Taip Ramadani
Coach: Eoin Murray
Manager: Freya Brent
Physiotherapist: Felicity Moore