Handball SA is the peak administrative body for the sport of European handball in South Australia, based in Adelaide. The organisation's primary functions are to promote and develop handball in South Australia, run junior and educational programs and administer indoor handball and beach handball competitions in the state.
Handball SA is a full member of Handball Australia. Representative teams from South Australia compete in national competitions in indoor and beach handball across the year.
Handball SA is operated by a committee of volunteers whose current President is Tammie Hamilton. The organisation is, and has been since 1987, run by a group of dedicated volunteers.
It was in 1987 that a group of players, predominantly from Europe, established the Team Handball Association of South Australia (THASA). They aspired to consolidate their shared love for the sport. A committee was elected at that time, with Dieter Schulz as the inaugural President.
Thus began the golden age for the sport in South Australia. A league was established with 5 men’s teams and 2 women’s teams, with fiercely contested matches between the many experienced players, who also brought into their fold a number of interested locals.
State teams also entered the national championships, and South Australia immediately became a powerhouse handball state. Across the late 80s and early 90s the South Australian teams matched it with the other states, regularly meeting interstate rivals in the grand final play-off.
It was the women’s team who reached the pinnacle of the sport in that era by winning the national title in 1989 when the event was held for the first time in Adelaide.
The sport continued to be played throughout the 1990s, and again Adelaide hosed the national championships in 1992. South Australia also contributed two national players in those early days: Olga Turecek and Mirek Hypner.
When Sydney won the right to host the 2000 summer Olympics, Australia as host nation was also able to field a handball team for the first time. Despite the euphoria of the Olympic Games, handball in South Australia lost momentum in 2000, and the association lay dormant for five years until it was resurrected officially in 2005.
Handball’s second coming in South Australia was led this time by a mix of local and international players, building from a grassroots base, with the aim of recapturing past success.
THASA was renamed Handball SA in 2010, and the Board at that time embarked on a rebuilding project. This included securing funding from the South Australian Government through the Office of Recreation and Sport, developing West Adelaide Handball Club and Southern Handball Club to compete in indoor competitions, and consolidating beach handball as an equal partner on the annual handball calendar.
The handball national championships finally returned to South Australia in 2012 and 2013, after a 20-year absence. This set the scene for SA to begin to recapture the success of those early days, and again see local players represent Australia at international level.
South Australia’s gold medal-winning men’s team in 2016 (left); local players Renata Rusmir and Birte Biehler representing Australia; and female players from West Adelaide Handball Club and Southern Handball Club
Since 2010, the state women’s teams have regularly featured in the medals at a national level, including a silver medal in the women’s championships in 2013.
Likewise it has been a purple patch for the male teams. South Australia’s men’s team clinched a silver medal in the new Australian Open Club Championships in 2016, and finally, after three decades, South Australia won the ever-illusive men’s national title later the same year.
Handball in South Australia has also taken on a second life thanks to the success of the summer derivative of the sport, beach handball.
First introduced in Adelaide in 2008, the South Australian beach handball league has arguably become the largest, most successful state league in Australia. It has produced a number of national representatives, including former men’s captain Lucas Turecek.
Handball SA has hosted the beach handball national championships four times at Glenelg Beach: in 2010, 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Success at a national level has also been achieved, with a silver medal for the men’s team in 2016 and a number of bronze medals for the women’s team.
Handball has also become one of the fastest-growing school sports in South Australia since 2010, with the game being taught statewide as part of physical education programs all the way to Year 12. Handball SA regularly sends specialist coaches to assist at school level, reaching thousands of school teachers and students each year.
Handball carnivals have also become a regular fixture on the school calendar, contested by both government schools (through School Sport SA) and non-government schools.
Additionally, Handball SA was a core partner in the Active After-School Communities program, where introductory handball clinics were delivered by our dedicated facilitators in various primary schools across South Australia.
Handball has also featured at the annual Australian University Games since 2007 when the University of South Australia fielded the very first SA team. In 2014 all threeSouth Australian universities took a handball team to the competition for the first time, with The University of Adelaide achieving a silver medal that year, and Flinders University a bronze medal in 2016. Four SA players achieved “green and gold” selection between 2007 and 2016.
The last major achievement for handball in South Australia has been the participation in the SANFL’s indigenous engagement programs. On two occasions, Handball SA members have travelled to the APY Lands to deliver clinics to local children, introducing them to the game of handball for the first time.
Now thirty years on from the official establishment of the sport in this state, it can be said that the sport has gone from strength to strength, and the outlook for the future is a positive one.
Thanks must be given to the many volunteers, whose tireless efforts and countless hours have enabled the sport to grow and the SA teams to achieve considerable success. Handball SA also appreciates the many partners, sponsors and supporters who have made a contribution, especially the Office of Recreation and Sport.