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Aussies Get A Handle On Handball

  • September 8th, 2007
  • Posted by Sarah West

handball-2.jpgThree players in Europe want to see progress on the road to the Olympics.


Most Australian’s know handball as a schoolyard game, played with a tennis ball, and mild in comparison to other sports.

However, traditionalists know it as an Olympic sport which requires supreme agility, speed, skill and tactical prowess.

In Europe spectators flock in droves to see the very best contest the sport which, in many countries on the continent, is second only to (soccer) Football in its following.

Yet, despite their origins in a nation where many believe Rugby League, AFL or cricket to be the only sport on the planet, a handful of athletes are putting Australia on handball’s international radar.

Cathy Kent, Tim Jackson and Bevan Calvert have broken the mould, opting out of the traditional sports of their homeland, and are now matching it with the world’s finest hand-ballers, week-in-week-out, in some of the world’s toughest professional leagues.

Kent, who plays in France for first division team Aunis Handball Perigny, in La Rochelle, was introduced to handball on a school excursion to the Australian Institute of Sport.

“They were teaching us new sports and handball was one of them,” she says.

“I fell in love with it straight away; it was the coolest sport I had ever played.”

Jackson, who plays for GV Ejby Middelfart in Denmark, was attracted by the game’s athleticism.

“It has everything I look for in a sport; speed, aggression and it’s tactical.

“For me, nothing else can compare,” he says.

And it’s this passion for the sport that gives them the motivation to do whatever it takes to succeed, in handball’s toughest arena.

“I train four to five times per week with the team and up to three times a week alone in the weights room, and play a game; so there isn’t a lot of spare time,” says Jackson.
Kent too dedicates most of her waking hours to honing her skills.

“I train twice a day.

“In the morning it can vary from handball, weights, running or individual work with trainers, and we always do handball training at night,” she says.

And if playing against handball’s elite isn’t enough of a test for these athletes, living away from home presents other challenges.

“I am able to understand a bit of Danish, when spoken a little slower, and I can say that my spoken Danish is horrible, but I try!” says Bevan Calvert who plays semi-professionally in Denmark for first division team Ribe.

Kent is also determined to break down the language barrier.

“I’m the only non-French speaking player in the team, so to learn French is a must.”

“There’s no better way to learn the language then to hang out with my fellow team members,” she says.


While handball players are usually well paid in Europe, Kent, Jackson and Calvert have to foot the bill when it comes to returning home and playing for their national teams.

“Some of the players in Europe can’t understand why we pay our own way to play for our country, but there is nothing greater than representing your country in the sport you love,” says Calvert.

With the World Women’s Handball Championships to be held in France later this year, Kent believes the lack of funding and support will mean Australia’s national team is disadvantaged.

“Of the 24 countries competing, we are the only country whose athletes have to pay for the entire trip out of our own pockets.

“We have two professionally paid players in our national team, while the other country’s players are all pro.”

A good result at the Championships is crucial if the team’s to qualify for next year’s Beijing Olympic Games; a feat never achieved by an Australian team.

Jackson also thinks it’s long overdue for handball to receive more attention at home.

“I believe once the Australian people know what handball is, they will love it,” he says.

And while playing in Europe is beneficial to their development in the sport, living on the continent has other distinct advantages.

“I always have time to try the French food and wines,” says Kent.


• Handball is also known as European Handball, Olympic Handball and Team Handball.
• Two teams each consisting of seven players pass and bounce a ball with the intention of scoring in the goal of the opposing team.
• The goal is similar to that which is used in soccer, but is smaller.
• Each goal is guarded by a goal keeper.
• Goals can only be scored from the hand.

Picture: Bevan Calvert shoots for goal