History was made at the Australian Institute of Sport on Sunday as the University of Queensland Handball Club clinched the 2023 Australian Handball Championship title in a thrilling match, outplaying Saint Kilda to win 31:25. This remarkable victory also secured their place as only the third Australian team to qualify for the IHF’s Super Globe.
Saint Kilda started the championship game on the front foot, racing to a 3:0 lead through goals by the brothers Dylan and Ryan Miatoudila. However, their early advantage was short-lived as Ignacio Oleaga Ballester, named the player of the tournament, responded with a 4-goal streak, propelling the University side into the lead by the 6-minute mark. Ballester’s impressive performance set the stage for a breathtaking contest.
The game quickly turned into a fiercely contested battle, with both teams matching each other goal for goal. Saint Kilda’s new imports, Dylan and Ryan Miatoudila, brought a new dimension to their team’s attack, relentlessly pressuring the UQ defense. Although, UQ’s goalkeeper, Daniel Reid, delivered the performance of his life, making 15 saves to inspire his teammates to victory.
As the clock ticked towards the 50-minute mark, tension gripped the court as neither side was willing to back down. In these decisive moments, UQ playmaker Ignacio Oleaga Ballester, just as he had done in his team’s win over previous champions Sydney Uni in the semi-final, stepped up again to take responsibility for leading his team’s attack. Another three-goal spree by Oleaga, after the 50-minute mark, and a string of asssists, set the two teams apart.
UQ’s rising star, Jack Neubecker, also made a significant impact on his team’s win, scoring an incredible eight goals from the right wing.
With this historic win, UQ has now earned a coveted spot at this year’s IHF Super Globe, an elite international event for continental club champions. This achievement places them in an elite league, joining the ranks of only two other Australian teams – Southern Stars and Sydney Uni – to have participated in this prestigious tournament.
Earlier on Sunday, the previous champions, Sydney Uni, secured the bronze medal by defeating hosts Canberra Handball Club with a score of 23:17.
Picture credit Freya Brent