Australia have completed their preliminary round campaign at their debut Asian Men’s Handball Championship, recording two losses at the hands of 2014 and 2016 silver medallists Bahrain, and Oman.
The tournament in Suwon, South Korea, began on January 18, when Australia were pitted against one of the medal favourites for what was a tough opening clash. Australia were defeated 33:10 (12:6), in a game where they faced strong attack thoroughly prepared by Bahrain coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson – who led Denmark to their first ever men’s Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Regardless of the result, experienced back Tim Anderson found many positives in the rebuilding team’s performance:
“The energy was great from start to finish. We played 60 minutes of handball – that’s kind of the mantra of the Australian team coming in to tournaments like this. We really showed the fight today; great spirit throughout, start to finish.
“They were very well drilled in attack,” Anderson continued with his analysis of Bahrain’s strongest points: “They ran the same move stock standard throughout the 60 minutes, but they did it really well.”
For Australia, Anderson found the technical mistakes to be the key factor working against the team: “I think in the first half, we only made five or six, and in the second half they ramped up. Every mistake from us is a goal for them, so that was the deciding factor, especially in the second half.”
There was no rest day for Australia, who faced Oman in what was their opening game, on January 19. Oman recorded a 33:19 (16:8) victory, in which Lucas Bastin was Australia’s top scorer with six goals. Bastin said Australia’s performance was greatly improved from the opening match.
“We definitely had more cohesion in our fast breaks, in our counter attacks. More cohesion in our defence. We had more spirit, we were much more aggressive on the bench to help the team,” said Bastin, before commenting on what won Oman the important two points:
“Their 3-3 defence definitely ruined our patience, made us panic, and their goalkeeper was always where he needed to be according to the defence, which led them to easy fast breaks.”
The two defeats mean Australia will finish third in Group A, and will now contest the placement round, while Bahrain and Oman battle to top the group. Australia need to wait until the last preliminary matches are finished to learn which teams they will meet in the next stage, with China, New Zealand, India and Bangladesh the possible opponents.
The team are hopeful of using the experience gained so far to claim some wins in the placement round.
“We’re getting better every game and every training session. We’re becoming more of a unit,” said Bastin. “I think we can only get better – and we’re going to get better.”
Text: Courtney Gahan
Photo credit: Asian Handball Federation