Fast-action game korfball tests all skills

23:00, Feb 05 2013
DUTCH RULES: Members of the Massey University korfball team play the game, which resembles netball and basketball.

It's like netball mixed with basketball, but with two extremely tall hoops towering at 3.5 metres tall and girls and boys battling it out on court at the same time. Lucy Townend takes a look at the handheld ball game of korfball and talks to the people who play in Manawatu.

It all started about a hundred years ago in Holland, when a primary school teacher had a bright idea to bring boys and girls together to play a new game.

From there korfball has turned into a global phenomenon played in 57 countries, including New Zealand.

But, what exactly is korfball and why is it so special?

"Its status as the world's only truly mixed team sports is what sets korfball apart," Manawatu Korfball Club's organiser Margreet Hekman says.

It's a fast-moving, fleet-footed, quick-thinking game where men and women take each other on using their brains and the ball, she says.


"It's a sport that encompasses all-round skills, co-operative play, controlled physical contact and, most importantly, gender equality."

In it teams of eight, divided into four men and four women, face off on a rectangular court.

Each player lines up against an opponent of the same gender from the other team with the aim of preventing them from scoring and to score themselves.

"Korfball can been seen as a series of one-on- one duels . . . and the object becomes how to outwit and outplay the other person," Miss Hekman says.

She started the club two years ago with two of her friends and managed to set up teams at Massey University and Ohakea Air Force Base.

The club meets weekly on Wednesdays at Massey for practice and every now and then heads down to Wellington to play the capital's club.

There are 30 members on the books at the moment but Miss Hekman hopes the number will be bolstered this year. She is encouraging people to try their hand at korfball.

"You don't need to be Michael Jordan to play. With intelligence and good team work anyone can play," Miss Hekman says.

Without undermining the urge to compete, the rules require individuals to play as a team, she says.

Working together is an important part of the sport and no man, or woman, should go at it alone.

"No solo play means good players can only succeed if they support and are supported by their team-mates . . . a one-man team won't do very well."

The perks of playing korfball in Palmerston North include meeting new people and making friends, Miss Hekman says.

But the game goes beyond just having fun.

Players need a competitive nature to enjoy the sport and should be prepared for a hard workout, mentally and physically.

"The opportunity to use skill, speed, experience and intelligence to dominate an opponent gives enormous scope for anybody who enjoys competition.

"But the best thing about being involved is the relaxed, positive atmosphere . . .

"And it's a sport where you use your whole body and mind."

Korfball club member Mathew Flemmer said he's been around since the Manawatu club's inception and loves being involved.

"I had never heard of it before I joined the club, but I enjoy it because it's competitive and at the same time a lot of it is about everyone having fun."

The 1.9-metre engineering student says he's a better defender with height on his side, but shows the Manawatu Standard how easy he finds it slotting the ball into the korf basket.

"Normally it doesn't work like that for me.

"Maybe it's because a photographer is here.

"You guys should come to every game and then I'd score more."

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Kids wanting to try korfball or join the newly formed Korfball League are invited to come along and have a go at the Holiday Fun open day on February 16, running from 9am until noon at the Barber Hall in Waldegrave St.



Korfball made its first brief appearance in New Zealand schools in the mid-1980s after the International Korfball Federation (IKF) and Korfball Australia (KA) tried to promote the sport in schools.

Due to dependency on a few key individuals rather than a self-sustaining organisation, no momentum was achieved and the concept dwindled by the early 1990s.

In late 1996, Christchurch based Rob Smith re-initiated Korfball to Kiwis through establishing Korfball New Zealand, an organisation focused on running regular adult Korfball competitions in Christchurch.

The Canterbury Korfball competition hosts more than 100 members, but clubs in Wellington, Auckland and Palmerston North help to triple this membership number nationwide.

Since the sports 1902 origins, Korfball has grown in numbers and popularity with its presence in New Zealand supporting that.

Accelerated expansion occurred globally in the late 1970s and the Korfball World Games began in 1985.

Manawatu Standard