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Date: 3/5/2018

The recent Australian Open Club Beach Handball Championship in Glenelg, South Australia, demonstrated clear development in the level and appeal of the sport in Oceania. With teams from New Zealand and American Samoa travelling to the event, a total of 33 squads were on the sand over a four-day competition.


For the first time, a club team from New Zealand won the men’s competition, as the Wellington Parrots took the trophy. Women’s side, Parrot Shawtys, placed third in the women’s competition.


“Being able to compete against the best in Aussie does so much for the growth of the sport here in NZ, but also lets us know what level we are currently playing at and what we need to do to improve,” said MVP and top scorer of the men’s competition, Nicholas Shields, while New Zealand Beach Handball Coordinator Tim Rayner added: “It shows that NZ are not too far off Australia and, as Australia continue to move up the beach world rankings, we are ready to break into the world scene.”


“I've found the quality of beach handball has increased over the last three years. This is evident with the tournament this year now having 12 women’s teams,” said Parrot Shawtys Erin Roxburgh. “The calibre of the athletes there is just amazing, and each year we find we have to grow and adapt to keep up.”


Working toward World Championship qualification


On a national team level, New Zealand have a regular training schedule, as most of the squad members are based in the capital city Wellington.


“Our main goal is to play more games against high-calibre teams. We have been close twice now to beating Australia and getting a ticket to the World Championship, but in close games we don’t have the experience to do what is needed. That will come with more game time,” said Shields, while Roxburgh says the New Zealand women’s team’s goal is to qualify for the World Championship in two years. Both men’s and women’s sides plan to travel abroad for competitions in the near future to build experience.


There is also notable development in New Zealand’s junior beach handball teams.


“I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to coach the U17 boys in Mauritius [at the U17 World Championship] and see a handful of those boys return to NZ buzzing to play more. This was after a successful tournament where we were the first NZ team to win on the world scene. The younger our players get exposure to the game, the greater the long-term success will be in New Zealand and for the Oceania region,” said Rayner. “At a club level, seeing the men take gold, the women take out the bronze and a second women’s team created out of our club is amazing for our development.


“Overall, I think we are heading in the direction we want to be for New Zealand Beach Handball. The more opportunities we get, the more our game will grow.”


Photo: Jun Tanlayco