The Australian Men's national team qualified for their eighth consecutive World Championship, defeating New Zealand, over two games, last weekend in Auckland.
The Aussies have now only seven months to prepare for the next major challenge, against the World’s best national teams in Doha, Qatar.
Coach Jan Ottosen is hoping to improve on the team’s results at the 2013 World Championship in Spain, and secure an all elusive win for the Aussies. Australia has not won a game at a World Championship event, since defeating Greenland, in Portugal, in 2013.
Team Manager’s Report
The Australian and New Zealand teams recently competed in the Oceania Continent Handball Federation championship, which doubles as the qualifier for the XXIV International Handball Federation World Championship, to be held in Qatar in January / February 2015. All member nations were invited to participate in the competition but only Australia and New Zealand were able to take up the opportunity to represent Oceania in the world handball event. Auckland, New Zealand was given the rights to host the event, which was held in the impressive ASB Stadium, about 15 minutes from the city centre. The event was a two part series, with the winner decided by cumulative goals scored. Australia won both games in the tournament.
Game One – 25th April
The 25th April, or ANZAC Day is a significant day in the history of both nations, as this year is the 99th anniversary of the landing at ANZAC cove, Turkey for these two nations. This day is one of the most important on each countries calendar and players of both teams, as well as the crowd and officials marked this day with respect with one minutes silence to remember those who fell during that battle.
A lively and huge crowd came out in full force and saw the day the New Zealanders almost knock the raging favourites off their perch. The Kiwi’s led by some impressive scoring from Karl Fitzpatrick, who scored 8 goals, took their home town advantage to the best of their ability. Australia played below their expectations, expecting to emulate their 2012 winning margins of 21 in each game of that series. Daniel Kelly led the scoring for the Aussies, with five goals, and Ognjen Latinovic, in his first game out of the goals (48 previous caps in goals), scored his first three goals for his country. Three other players scored three goals, Caleb Gahan (Aus), Stephane Blaise (Aus) and Patrick Whatman (NZ).
The Kiwis, although losing the game, were extremely positive about their game, giving coach Ilkin Oenal a reason to believe they could win the return leg. Australian coach Jan Ottosen noticed areas needed for improvement, mainly tightening up teamwork and completing their set plays.
The final score ended up 22:18 (15:8) in favour of the Australians, who now take a four goal lead into the return leg of the series.
The New Zealand team came to the stadium full of confidence and belief, and the Australian’s came knowing they needed to improve their game otherwise the home crowd would get the Kiwi’s over the line in game two.
The game started exactly as the Australians wanted, racing out to a 7:2 lead in less than ten minutes, with a solid defence and taking the scoring opportunities that they were denied the previous day. Daniel Kelly once again led the scoring with seven goals, while Sebastien Traverso netted six, left winger Harry Watson scoring five and Caleb Gahan put four behind the keeper. Every court player from the Australian team got on the scoreboard, indicating a much better team game, which coach Ottosen was pleased with. Australia’s goalkeepers played well, showing consistency across the two games, only letting in 18 each game.
The New Zealanders were once again led by the goal scoring ability of Karl Fitzpatrick, who scored four goals, as did Ben Potaka. Bernhardt Klintworth also had a good game, scoring three goals. New Zealand keeper James Nixon stopped many shots in both halves in this game, and Justin Cope stopped shots when they counted in pressure situations. Coach Oenal was pleased with the performance of his team over the two days, and knows with the continual development shown from the previous tournament in Sydney, that a World Championship berth is not far off, possibly even in France 2017.
Ognjen Latinovic, who had just played his 50th international cap, accepted the Oceania trophy from event organiser Gaston Fuso, and confirmed Australia’s place at the 2015 World Championship in Qatar.
Congratulations to all teams, the organisers and the spectators for a fantastic sporting event. Both teams are already looking forward to the next time they cross the Tasman Sea to face off against each other…. With the 100th anniversary of ANZAC only a year away, we could be waiting less time than normal.
Lucas HaydenAustralian Men’s Team Manager