Meet the NZ men's handball team out to cause upsets at first big international tournament

Handball is growing as a sport in New Zealand and a major milestone is about to be realised - for the first time a Kiwi team will compete in the Asia Men's Handball Championship next month in South Korea.

The sport brings together aspects of football, basketball, ice hockey and rugby.

"It's pretty unbelievable, I to be honest never wanted to go to South Korea before so it's a good opportunity," goalkeeper Thomas Roxburgh said.

Team member Luke Ireland said the team has only previously competed internationally in the Oceania Championship in Australia.

"To make it is huge... If this sport kicks off we're going to look back on this tournament as this is where it all started, so I mean everyone's just feeling geared up to go over there and have a crack at it," he said.

The national team of 15 men and two coaches will head to the championships next month, which act as a qualifier for the 2019 World Men's Championship.

There's around 500 handball players across New Zealand but the sport's hub is based in Wellington where there's a league competition and weekly games. It's also where the national team meet for training camps, with several players travelling from outside the capital.

Overseas, the sport is as popular as rugby in some European and Arab countries, and almost as bruising. Kids can start playing at primary school.

Here, most players join up around university age through friends already part of the 'tight-knit' community, team member Mr Ireland said.

The national team ranges in age from 18 to 46, bringing together students and full-time professionals, ranging from an architect to teacher and sales representative.

The team's self-funding their road to the championship through fundraising and sponsorship deals. Each team member's cost is around $8000.

It's a far cry from the situation of the paid professionals in the championship, including past Olympic teams like Qatar who they'll play.

Coach Ludovic Galliegue said the competition will be tough but whatever the outcome, it will be a significant step for putting New Zealand on the map for handball. He said they plan to leave with no regrets.

"We are really going there to make a few upsets and get a few wins," he said.

"These guys are a very good example on how quickly New Zealanders can get good at the game and can progress very fast, these guys are starting very late in their lifetime so it's a very good showcase."

The team said many Kiwis would enjoy playing the sport due to it being a bit like rugby with contact involved. The championship's part of their mission to spread word of the sport, with the biggest misconception being that they play the lunchtime version, also known as four-square.

"It's fast, it's physical and there's a lot of skill involved. I think New Zealanders are quite built for the sport but all the tall guys are playing basketball and volleyball but it would be good to get them over to handball and see what we can do," team member Karl Fitzpatrick said.

The countdown's now on but the team's still in need of one thing to make a lasting, but appropriate, impression.

"We've been looking for public interest to try give us a name because as this point we really haven't been able to come up with anything catchy," Mr Ireland said.

The team, yet to find its own catchy name, is heading to the Asia Men's Handball Championship in South Korea. Source: 1 NEWS



Watch: The adorable moment Kiwi cyclist George Bennett gained a young fan for life

Kiwi cyclist George Bennett may have had a disappointing finish on the Tour of Spain but a video has emerged that is sure to win him plenty of fans despite the result.

Bennett finished outside the top 10 at the Vuelta a Espana but took time on the final stage to make one young fan's day.

After receiving applause from the young supporter, Bennett decided to give him an unexpected reward for his enthusiastic cheers during one of the event's climbs – his water bottle.

The moment was caught on video and shared by the boy's family on social media.

The gesture has now been viewed hundreds of thousands of times with many heaping praise on Bennett for the gesture.

Bennett may have had a disappointing finish in the Tour of Spain but he made sure he made someone else’s day. Source: 1 NEWS


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Black Sox welcome back veterans in 25-man squad as attention turns from Europe tour to 2019 World Champs

The Black Sox have welcomed back a wealth of experience as well as another young pitching talent to their squad as they turn their attention from their Europe tour to next year's World Championships.

Coach Mark Sorenson has named a 25-man squad to attend a training camp in Palmerston North later this month.

All 17 players who were part of the successful Intercontinental Cup campaign in Prague last month have been included with veteran stars Nathan Nukunuku, Wayne Laulu, Tyrone Bartorillo, Josh Harbrow and Josh Pettett rejoining the squad as well.

The Black Sox used the trip to Europe as an opportunity to introduce six new caps while also getting a better understanding of the playing environment in Prague, where next year's World Championships are also being held.

"The 17 players who toured this year laid down a marker for what is required next year, but we are also excited about welcoming back some of our veteran players, and the competition for places that this will generate," Sorenson said.

"There are still a number of spots up for grabs in the World Cup squad and this camp represents the first step in making this team."

Sorenson has also included Wellington's Zac Boyd after his impressive showing at the Black Sox trials in February while Auckland catcher Harrison Valk has also been included following his strong performance with the Junior Black Sox at the U19 World Championships.

However a new face in the squad is Cantabrian pitcher Ben Watts.

Watts impressed at the National Open Clubs tournament earlier this year, guiding Papanui to the final before they were taken down by Nukunuku's Mount Albert Ramblers.

It's hoped Watts' selection will "bring plenty of heat to the pitching roster" and "further their depth".

The squad will assemble in Palmerston North from October 26-28.

Black Sox: Pita Rona (North Harbour), Benjamin Enoka, Campbell Enoka, Campbell Gibson, Cole Evans, Daniel Chapman, Eruera Drage, Harrison Valk, Kallan Compain, Nathan Nukunuku, Rhys Evans, Thomas Enoka, Zane Van Lieshout (Auckland), Joel Evans, Joseph Ferriso, Nikki Hayes (Hutt Valley), Jerome Raemaki, Josh Petitt, Wayne Laulu, Zac Boyd (Wellington), Ben Watts, Jackson Watt, Joshua Harbrow, Reilly Makea, Tyron Bartarillo (Canterbury).

Junior Black Sox Reilly Makea bats against Czech Republic.
Junior Black Sox Reilly Makea bats against Czech Republic. Source: Softball NZ

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Watch: Aussie rookie leaves NFL commentators perplexed with use of drop kicks

An Australian kicker playing his first season in the NFL caught the attention of commentators in today's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears by introducing a rugby technique to the sport.

Rookie punter Michael Dickson left ESPN commentators Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten stunned after he performed drop kick kick-offs in the Seahawks' 24-17 loss.

"A drop kick kick-off?" Tessitore asked.

"We are going to send our stat folks into overdrive here, but I'm going to put it out there.

"You tell me the last time you ever saw a drop kick kick-off in the NFL?"

"I don't know if it ever happened Joe," Witten, a star tight end for the Dallas Cowboys for 15 years, replied.

Veteran Sebastian Janikowski usually kicks off for Seattle and uses a tee but coach Pete Carroll, who is known for using non-traditional methods, gambled with Dickson's rugby method.

With 14 seconds left in the game and the Seahawks needing a touchdown to tie, the Aussie attempted a short drop kick hoping his team would recover.

They didn't and the Bears held on for the win, leaving Seattle without a win in their first two games of the new season.

"We're still a work in progress," Carroll said.

"You tell me the last time you ever saw a drop kick kick-off in the NFL?" ESPN's Joe Tessitore said. Source: SKY


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'This is bigger than boxing' – SBW motivated by charity ahead of next fight

All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams says his next jaunt into the boxing ring is all about charity, rather than his reputation within the sport.

Williams, 33, will fight Australian reality TV star Stu 'The Bachelor' Laundy in Sydney on December 1, with all funds raised to go aid homeless in Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking to media in Auckland today, Williams revealed his motivation for the bout.

"This is bigger than boxing," he began.

"I'm just humbled by Stu and Max (Markson, promoter) coming to me and asking if I want to be a part of it.

"Understanding that Bill Crews (of the Exodus Foundation) and the Auckland City Mission have big parts to play in that, that's what we're trying to do and raise funds for."

The All Blacks star will face Stu 'The Bachelor' Laundy on December 1. Source: 1 NEWS