Hands up who's for handball?

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013
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Connor McCabe on the attack for Cashmere High School in a friendly match with Christchurch Boys High at Pioneer Stadium

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New Zealand Handball Federation president Eric Mouhica is on a mission to get more Canterbury secondary school students playing the fast-paced sport.

Handball, which is extremely popular in Europe, is a minority sport in this country. Mouhica, who previously played in the French first division, has plans to grow the sport in Christchurch, and is hopeful of launching a schools league for term three. He expected about four teams to compete, but was optimistic about getting more schools involved in the next few years.

On Saturday, Christchurch held the first of three national tournaments at Pioneer Stadium. A friendly game was played on the day, among high school students, with Christchurch Boys' High and Cashmere High players split up into two teams.

Mouhica would love to emulate Wellington's handball achievements. Three years ago, they had four schools playing the sport, but now they had 15, which was encouraging, he said.

Before the 2011 earthquake, Mouhica, who is a French teacher at Christchurch Boys', held a seminar coaching day, where high school teachers from around the city could come and learn about the sport. There was a positive turnout with 12 people participating, and he was looking to build on that success.

Mouhica was also hopeful of gaining support from Sport Canterbury to purchase more handballs for use in the schools. He also wanted to introduce the game to year 9 students in their first year of high school, so by the time they were seniors they understood the intricacies of the sport.

Handball features aspects of other codes, such as netball, rugby and basketball, and Mouhica said most people that gave the sport a go usually enjoyed it.

"If you're frustrated with netball or basketball and want something rougher, but not like rugby, this is the perfect sport for you," he said.

Fitness was an important part of the game, with matches played at a high intensity. Mouhica believed handball was well suited to people with good hand-eye co-ordination and strong agility.

"The best ones are usually smart, swift, elusive sort of players. If you have great, distributing kind of guys, that's the best," he said.

"Good running and hand-eye co-ordination [are crucial]. Good passing skills and jumping. It is a sport you play with your head, too. It's a very fast sport. You have to make instant decisions."

Canterbury finished up fourth in the men's competition on Saturday, with the region's women's team placing third. Hutt Valley were the winners of the men's tournament, while a Wellington composite team were victorious in the women's league.

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Handball has slowly developed in New Zealand over the past five years. That was illustrated with the winning Hutt Valley men's side consisting of players who were all born in New Zealand. Mouhica said European expatriates had mainly just played the game previously, the win represented an important breakthrough.

The remaining two national tournaments will be held in Wellington and Auckland.

Interested players can contact canterburyhandball@gmail.com.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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