2011-10-26

Oct 26, 2011

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Australian Handball 1950 - 2010 by Peter Yuritta

Oct 26, 2011

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Australian 4 Wall Titles - Melbourne 2011

Jul 07, 2011

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Australian Handball 1950 - 2010 by Peter Yuritta

Oct 26, 2011

Australian Handball 1950 – 2010

 

One person’s recollections of participating in and being a spectator at one of the toughest and most skilful games of all
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Handballers who play the game at any level are true sportspeople who do so to gain personal satisfaction and peer group recognition – there is no money and no celebrity.
Some players have the natural skills; others can reach the top level by sheer hard work and repetitions training
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My introduction to handball was in 1950 at C.B.C. North Melbourne playing in the inter-school competition.  Fred Italiano was seniors champion and the club was well run under the guidance of Bill Stuckey.  The old master Jack Hughes was often present encouraging and giving advice.  He later tried to teach me how to be a successful two up player but his system failed because the coins did not have memories

 

By the 1960’s inter school competition had ceased, however the North Old Boys club continued to function with great success.  We were fortunate to have a supply of great players – Fred Italiano, Des Jones, Andy Bieleny and Dennis O’Brien etc etc

 

The game in Victoria thrived for a couple of decades; we had 8-10 clubs with up to 30 teams competing in pennant competition.

 

Gradually the supply of skilled juniors dried up so North merged with Malvern and eventually formed a team at the King Club(Wantirna) playing pennant on the 4 wall courts.

 

I tend to blame successive governments for the decline in the development of skilled juniors to challenge established champions in handball as well as other sports.  Since the 1980’s billions of dollars seem to have been spent to support often contracted “elite” athletes rather that to encourage participation at the juniors or grass roots level.

 

As a result many sport administrators try to attract overseas athletes who can meet world championships qualifying criteria by attempting to fast tract Australian citizenship for them.  I suppose many other bureaucracies like to tilt the figures to maximise tax payers funding.

 

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3 Wall Handball

 

Hearsay was the only way I could establish the relative merits of players prior to my becoming a regular spectator.  The great George Macris, Tim Tucker, Charlie Sweeney and Peter Leahy were usually mentioned.

 

My first interstate competition was in Sydney in 1956 when I played in the junior’s national doubles championship partnering Andy Bieleny.  This was an introduction to a superb weekend of physical and social activity.  Apart from playing and being a spectator, the Friday night welcome and introduction of teams, and the Sunday night presentation dinner and selection of “Australian Eights” were highlights.  Sharing a room with Tony Ravesi at the Coogee Bay Hotel was a daunting but most enjoyable task.

 

1958 Adelaide was my first experience as a senior player representing Victoria competing for the O’Connor cup (The “ashes” of handball) in the team’s event.  My first matches partnering Andy Bieleny were against Jack
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Foley and Pat Brady and later Tony Ravesi and Brian Ploenges.  That year was a prelude to another 50 years of playing and being a spectator at Handball carnivals.

 

I was very fortunate to have been exposed early on (the Fannings, Ravesis, O’Donnell and Jaques) to the recuperative power of a glass of beer at a social post-mortem

 

I always considered that doubles was a better spectacle particularly if the temperatures rose above 30c and the match was closely fought.

 

There were many great players and great doubles combinations – Paul Fallon and various partners(particularly Paul Sweeney) Vic DiLuzio and various partners Lou Ravesi and Joe Abraham, Fred Italiano and Bill Serong, Jim Kiley and Damian Walker, Des Jones & Peter Dempsey, Boris Potiuch and John Cook come to mind.  The individual skills of Geoff Walsh, Chris King, Peter Schreiner, Eddy Scheruga, Glen Marsh, Mick Hamilton, Peter Fitzgerald, Jim Cornie, John Black, David Sticca etc were superb.

 

The super quick reflexes of specialist front wall players such as Paul Sweeney, Jack Hughes, John Cook and Geoff O’Donnel was always a delight to watch.

 

Most of the top players were prepared to take risk.  I do not know how the litigation solicitors handle that.

 

Until recently, individual titles were contested as an invitational event.  The open competition we now hold is much fairer.  Numbers could be limited by Australian selectors if necessary.

 

By the late 80’s the health of the game was starting to diminish.  This can be illustrated by the number of players in their forties playing at and winning national senior championships.

 

Academics have always stated that athletes are at their physical prime only between the ages of 21 and 37.

 

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4 Wall Handball

 

4-Wall handball began to be taken seriously in the 1980’s.  Fourteen courts were built at the King Club Wantirna to cater for the World Championships, which were to be held in 1988.  This was an opportunity for Australian handballers to display their skills and to compare them against the brilliance of the American, Irish, Canadian and other countries.

 

For many years, Vic DiLuzio dominated the Australian 4-Wall scene.  He eventually won four world singles titles in various age brackets.

 

Eddy Scheruga won the World Open title in 1988.  He was invited to join the world pro tour by the “Champion” glove manufacturer but declined because of marital and work reasons.

 

Most skilled players could adjust to the 4wall version with ease and we saw many 3-Wall champions ranking high in 4-Wall.  Chris King, Joe Santilli, Paul Sweeney, Jim Kiley come to mind but there are many others.

 

1 Wall Handball

Recently the one wall version seems to have become popular at both national and international events.  I know little of this version except to note that the same players that are expert in 3-wall and 4- wall seem to adapt to the 1-wall version well
Overall, I would rank 3-wall as the best spectator sport because of the physical intensity.  4-wall is the more skilful game and 1-wall probably has the best chance of attracting the largest participation.
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Administration
At times, the national and state administrations seem to have been lax in recording and / or forwarding historical data.
Apart from anything else, it seems a long time since I have seen an annual report or itemised statement of accounts.
Our best executive director was undoubtedly Jack Foley, who registered the A.H.C as a not for profit organisation with the S.A business and consumer affairs.  We joined the World Handball body and he was able to promote our game under the umbrella of the Aust Sports Commission.  He obtained funding for administrative purposes.
This association with the sports commission does not seem to have been continued – I am not sure why.  Perhaps it was our reluctance to encourage female and disabled competition, or to make players available for drug testing.  In addition, I am uncertain if we were always forwarding to the fundraising agency statements of accounts as to how their funds were spent.
We did have a female championship listed in the official program in 1996, although the match was played, the results were not officially recorded.  Not encouraging
The current administration has been very successful in helping Australian players to participate at World Championships particularly the 1-wall version.  This is very positive, but the future of the game probably rest on decisions made by the world body and the ministries of sport.
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My Best Players
Paul Fallon just pips Vic DiLuzio at the three wall version however Vic DiLuzio gets the overall nod because of his adaptability, Vic could handle small court, big court, one wall, three wall and 4 wall with ease and was willing to undertake many weekly training sessions prior to playing in major evens.
Eddy Scheruga probably had the attributes to take this mantel away from Vic, but he had a short and much interrupted career.
Peter Yuritta
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