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Handball celebrates another win

Thursday 19 January 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Handball, Sports

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Handball celebrates another win
Team IDK won the Cook Islands Beach Games handball competition. AL WILLIAMS/23011705

Handball Cook Islands is celebrating a successful two-day tournament in which emerging talent was identified.

Eight teams went into the beach handball competition at the 2023 Cook Islands Beach Games – but only one could be crowned champion following tough battles in the sand at the Nikao beach courts this week.

Team IDK took gold, followed by the Mighty Mermans with silver, and Outlaws taking bronze.

Organisers also acknowledged teams Portugal, Nukz Power, Purple Pride, Red Bulls and Manihiki.

A local competition is scheduled to start soon with Handball Cook Islands saying it will name a training squad in the near future.

This week’s competition was hotly contested, as at the end of day one, in Pool A, team IDK was out in front with six points ahead of Outlaws, Manihiki and Red Bulls.

In Pool B, Mighty Mermans were first placed with six points ahead of Portugal, Purple Pride and Nukz Power. 

Handball Cook Islands president Makiroa Mitchell-John said team numbers had to be capped to eight as they worked alongside the Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee to ensure the event could be supported.

“It was also a good opportunity for us to recruit and scout players for this discipline (beach handball) to represent us at the IHF Trophy/OCHF World Qualifiers for open men’s and women’s scheduled at the Gold Coast 20 to 25 April.”

The highlight was seeing an influx of younger players who don’t play other sports, she said.

“Hence increasing our recruitment pool.

“But also being able to train technical officials on the bench. It’s not an easy job to do. Just like ensuring all teams get to referee.

“The referee is the most important person in the game, without them there is no game.

“Overall education is the key.’

She said the organisation is “navigating a pathway for our members to align to our international obligations”.

“We are developing in both beach and indoor locally but that has to transpire up the Olympic ladder.

“Therefore we have the IHF trophy/OCHF Open Beach World Qualifiers in April, whoever wins elevates to World Championships, scheduled in June 2024 to represent the Oceania continent.

“We also have our the IHF Trophy/Oceania Continent Handball Federation World Qualifiers for Under 17s and 21s women’s indoor handball scheduled for the end of the year with a host country.”  

It’s been a busy couple of months for the sport as Cook Islands received timely international exposure at the Men’s IHF Trophy Oceania tournament held last month on Rarotonga in preparation for a busy 2023 season.

The Men’s IHF Trophy Oceania was held between 5 and 9 December at the National Indoor Arena in Nikao.

Notably, the winners in both age categories had been determined already on the day before the event ended – Tahiti claimed the title at the youth (U18) competitions, while Australia triumphed at the junior (U20) event.

Both winners qualified for the Intercontinental Phase of the IHF Trophy. Besides, Australia qualified for the 2023 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship in Germany and Greece.

As Tahiti cannot play at the World Championship due to their status as regional members, the runners-up, New Zealand, secured a spot at the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship in Croatia. 

Cook Islands finished in fourth and fifth places in the Junior and Youth categories, respectively.

At the time, Mitchell-John said hosting the Men’s IHF Trophy Oceania proved quite daunting.

Australia, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Tonga battled for the title in the youth (U18) category, and the same nations except Tahiti played in the junior (U20) tournament.

Cook Islands was given a fixed budget from the international federation and worked with the community, especially smaller businesses with caterings, and other services to successfully host the tournament.

Mitchell-John said Cook Islands will be taking part in a number of World Cup qualifying events in 2023 including the U18 and U20 women’s tournaments.

The tournament also served as an eye opener for national players.

“The players did well but this tournament showed them what international level really is. The attitude has to change, the mindset has to change and the players have to commit to their trainings to play well at that level,” Mitchell-John said.

“Given the preparation time we had and our experience in indoor handball I think our teams did well managing to put double digits against teams like Australia and New Zealand.”