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Noticias Detalles

Date: 13/04/2019

New Zealand head coach Tim Rayner is well experienced at what it means to play international handball tournaments for his country, most recently taking to the Russian sand last July when he represented the Kiwis in their debut IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championship.

He talks to IHF.info about how important the 2018-19 IHF Men’s Trophy Intercontinental Phase is not only for spreading the visibility of his country and the continent, but in the constant battle to attract the best athletes to a team sport which is still in its early stages of development.

IHF.info: Despite your losses in Kosovo, what positives can you take from the matches so far?

Tim Rayner: There’s definitely positives to take. We’ve got to find what our level is at this level. I asked all the players to give their best efforts and to know walk away leaving the court knowing they’ve not left 100% on it.

Although the scores may not reflect it, we have showed that Oceania belong in this arena. This is for them to take in the experience and know that this is world handball. That this is how the world plays it; that it’s the top teams from Europe at our level. My players have trained hard and they won their division [to be here]. The biggest takeaway for the boys is showing them that we do belong here and just how far we can get. 

IHF.info: How do you approach your games; do you break them down into small segments?

Tim Rayner: We do not target so much in terms of ‘let’s win this slot’ or ‘let’s win these micro games’, the biggest part for us is the first five minutes. In our first game, against Canada, that’s where we identified where we really lost it and then that really dictated the next 55 minutes. 

Whereas, against Kosovo, we thought ‘what can we do in the first five minutes?’ and that dictated where we went, and I thought we stepped up in that five minutes. We didn’t make it comfortable for them and showed we belong there and that’s all I wanted to see. Then it was a case of how long we could carry that on for. We could probably have been a bit more targeted but, overall, I am happy with 60 minutes of effort.

IHF.info: The U21 Australia team are here in Kosovo too, how important is it to have two different nations from Oceania and not just one dominant nation?

Tim Rayner: It’s definitely good, but there are some really strong teams in Oceania in addition to us and Australia, like New Caledonia and Tahiti, for example.

I’ve been playing men’s handball for New Zealand for a long time and Australia have had our number, but we’ve been constantly improving and that’s that competitive edge you need - you always want to come back for more and the competitiveness of it all is what we’re all after in Oceania because if there’s more competition in our continent then tournaments like this are less of a step-up. 

The Aussies will go back to Oceania from here with all of their learning and we’ll come back with ours and then it’s about us as nations working together and against each other to really improve that contest - it’s all about experience for us.

Oceania is improving in terms of learning; we’ve got a wider base too and it’s also visibility for us a nation in world handball and the sport back home too. It comes down to desire too – these boys have been training four days a week, every week for probably the last four months with training camps once a month and that’s not a normal thing to do in New Zealand or Oceania in my eyes.

IHF.info: Not many Kiwis can say they have performed the haka in Kosovo…

Tim Rayner: No, they definitely can’t. The haka is always going to be a moment which we pride ourselves on. With New Zealand in international handball, past tournaments have broadcast it and we’ve had a good response around it, so that just grows and grows. 

The first time we did it, at the 2017 IHF U17 Beach Handball World Championship in Mauritius, the boys got lots of views on social media and it spread around the world. Then, the next team to do it, it flows on, and they want to make it bigger. 

It also differentiates us from Australia and even in this part of the world, in Kosovo, people ask us if we’re doing the haka. Everyone knows about it and they want to see it.

IHF.info: How important is the experience for these young players at an international tournament both on and off the court?

Tim Rayner: It shows the whole path and provides a whole experience. We went to Serbia for a pre-tournament training camp and watched the Serbian league play-off matches when we were in Belgrade. Here in Kosovo we watched their senior men’s EHF EURO qualifier against Israel.

The biggest thing in Oceania, and from my perspective, is that we don’t realise how big handball is across the world until you’re there in the middle of it. 

After our players go away to play we’ve have had player enquiries from those who they go to school with as the boys start to spread their stories about how awesome it was and the experience. This then  starts to flow on and on and you get more players coming to our trials.

IHF.info: You were in the New Zealand senior men’s beach handball team with one of your players here in Kosovo, Max Brookes. How important is he for your team?

Tim Rayner: Max is definitely one of our more experienced players, in terms of games under his belt. He plays for my club back home and has been a New Zealand regular since he was 14 or 15 years old.

He’s got some experience, holds himself with high regard and has a high handball IQ, but we have a few senior players who have been playing for multiple years in the men’s competition and that’s just our senior leadership group - they step up.

We’ve got some players coming through too who aren’t based in Wellington where handball is dominant. They’ll go back, down to Christchurch and carry on that experience. We’ve got one or two that are looking to do some stints in Europe which is quite new for New Zealand handball and which is something that Australia have benefitted from through their pathways.

This all shows that the boys are loving handball and they want to further their game, get more experiences and challenge themselves to where they can get. Kazan was a great experience for the New Zealand men, and I think despite the results it was, again, showing that we do belong there – a couple of games could have easily gone our way. 

With a few more years of our handball programme we can definitely start to show that these nations do belong on the scoreboard and not just with heart and attitude around it.

IHF.info: How crucial is the IHF Trophy for New Zealand in their continued development as a handball nation?

Tim Rayner: Particularly with the addition of the youth competition, in Oceania we’re seeing the benefit of being able to capture players earlier. A 15 or 16 year old with desires to play for their country now does not have to wait until the U21s come around, you’re in the system straight away, the learning begins straight away, and the benefits are huge. 

For players starting out with a new sport where the awareness within the country isn’t strong can be hard. We’re competing constantly with rugby, basketball and football. With handball the parents of the players may ask ‘what’s this sport my kid has signed up to’, ‘why are they asking for all of this money’, ‘where are they going’, ‘what the heck is handball’, it’s a bit of that, but now, with the IHF Trophy, with everything covered, it means is that if their son or daughter is away at training they can see them working hard and see the pathway.

I’ve had parents talk to me about how the greater picture of their kids’ development has been huge for them, not just on the handball court, but off it too. For example, they are starting to be more alert with school work or they are having to self-manage their time because if they miss a training it’s inexcusable in our system.