25 Apr. 2022
The New Zealand men and Australia women have won their respective Oceania Continent Handball Federation (OCHF) Men’s and Women’s Oceania Beach Handball Championships to confirm their spots at both the 2022 IHF Beach Handball World Championships and The World Games.
The Oceania championships took place across two days – 21 and 22 April – on the sand at Coolangatta on Queensland’s Gold Coast last week, as part of the Beach Handball Nationals Australia event.
Due to the ongoing difficulties with travel across the Oceania region due to COVID-19, the men’s and women’s sides from Australia and New Zealand were the only national teams able to participate in the continental championships, which were held across a best-of-three series.
In the men’s competition, New Zealand broke the stranglehold of the Aussie men on Oceania sand, winning the series 2-1 to register their first-ever continental crown.
They took the first game via shoot-out 2-1 (20:18, 14:22, SO 7:6), with Paul Ireland – who scored 22 points in the match – scoring the solitary winning point in the sudden-death series after both teams had missed their second shot and Australia missed their fourth.
However, the Australian men powered back the following day winning 2-0 (20:8, 16:10), thanks to 14 points from Oliver Machell.
Later on, on the same day, the series went down to a finale and it was Ireland again who scored the magical point for New Zealand, known as the ‘Kiwis’ – again in a shoot-out, after Chris Pinder had missed the third shot for Australia.
New Zealand took a 2-1 series win with that 2-1 shoot-out victory (15:14, 10:16, SO 9:8) to bring joy to the squad and that of New Zealand’s High Performance Director and coach of both the men’s and women’s teams in Australia, Tim Rayner.
The result puts an end to successive qualifications for the Australian men at the IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championships, stretching back to their debut in 2010. It is the first time New Zealand have qualified via a competitive route for the global event after they were handed a Wild Card entry for the debut at the previous edition, Kazan 2018.
Rayner was assisted with his coaching duties on the New Zealand women’s team by long-term men’s goalkeeper James Cochrane but they were not able to repeat the same result, despite the series also going down to the third and final game.
Australia, coached by Andrew Kelso, dominated the shoot-out in their opening clash, scoring all five of their shots compared to just one from the Kiwis, to win 2-1 (26:16, 12:15, SO 10:2). Despite the defeat, New Zealand came back strongly the following day, winning 2-0 (10:9, 11:10) in a low-scoring, tight encounter.
So, it went down to the third and final game again, but thanks to 14 points from Claudia Mitchelle, Australia won 2-0 (14:6, 20:8) to book their tickets to the two global events.
The 2022 IHF Men’s and Women’s Beach Handball World Championships will be played in Heraklion, Greece in June and The World Games will take place in Birmingham, USA in July.
Photo: Chris Seen Photography