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I accepted the role of Media and Public Relations Officer of the Australian Handball Federation in October 2006. Like all the positions in the Australian Handball Federation and the various state handball associations, mine is an unpaid volunteer work. I am inspired by the players’ passion for their sport and their love for their country so I try to contribute to the sport in my own little ways.
My introduction to handball was in 2001, when my younger son Bevan, at the age of 15 years, played handball when he was in Turramurra High School. After THS won the State School Championships, Bevan was selected to be part of the NSW Team and at age 18 years of age got in the Australian Men’s Team and represented Australia in the 2005 World Championship held in Tunisia, and thereafter he has not looked back.
Bevan has received awards from Filipino-Australian organisations for recognition of his achievements in handball. He has gladly accepted the awards with the hope that he will encourage the Filipino-Australian youth to pursue their aspirations.
Playing for country on a meagre budget
I have been to three men’s and two women’s world championships. For each of those tournaments, I watched how our athletes played with great courage against teams with stronger and professional players. Whereas our players pay their expenses when they represent Australia in international competitions in addition to taking time off work and/or studies, their counterparts are on lucrative contracts. Whereas our teams are put together a month and train for a month prior to their participation in world competition, the other teams generally have played together for some time. Whereas our teams are supported by small management teams comprised of unpaid coaches, physiotherapists, masseuse, managers and a media relations officer, the other teams have fully paid and much bigger management teams.
Despite all the odds and setbacks, our athletes keep going fuelled by their passion for their sport and for their country. They shoulder the expenses associated with keeping fit, attending training camps and competitions to improve their skills. They continue making sacrifices when they are selected to represent their state in national tournaments and their country in world competitions,
For some this passion for their sport and country knows no bounds. Examples include a player selling his car to afford participation in a world championship; another one taking two years to pay off his outlay and Bevan himself effectively giving up a two-year contract in order to represent Australia in the 2009 world championship. There are other stories of heartaches endured by our warriors in the sporting arena. Our players are respected out there as the other teams know what odds they have to overcome to be in the world championships and the courageous way they play right to the end of each game.
Funding does not come easy
Late last year, the Australian Handball Federation accepted an invitation to participate in the historic Gallipoli Tri Nations Tournament to be held in Turkey during Anzac week. The aim of the tournament is pay homage to the Turkish, New Zealand and Australian soldiers who perished in the battlefields of Gallipoli. Needless to say, there is no funding available for this event. The Turkish Handball Federation is covering costs during the tournament and the guys’ uniforms are sponsored by hummel. However, there is still the cost of airfares to be shouldered by the players. Depending on where they are located, players can be up for about $2850 to participate and represent their country in such a historic sporting event. Most of the players are students on part-time employment so this it is a big ask for them to fork out this much in addition to taking time off work without pay.
I tried to find money for the players. If I ask you to name at least three well-known business world figures that I should have approached, I bet I would have requested at least two of them, if not all. In return for an outlay, their organisations would be given due publicity on our website, media releases, interviews and possibly their logo worn on the players’ uniform. So it is really not an “idle” donation or give-away money, but effectively a marketing initiative and at the same time helping a national sport team representing Australia in a very significant event. The significance of the event is appreciated by RSL Clubs; however, their budget for the year has been allocated.
The likely impact on country relations should our team be forced by lack of resources to withdraw also appears to be not appreciated by relevant government departments. The speed at which I got referred to other government departments was neck-breaking.
To be fair, I acknowledge some contribution made by the Australian Ambassador and Consul in Turkey, by a couple of local councils processing what their youth assistance grant allows and one RSL club in Queensland which offered to host and provide resources for a fund-raising bbq.
I have been following up the AHF President’s request to the Prime Minister and the Veterans Affairs Minister, I am hoping to have their response this week. I hope to tell you that they are helping out. So stay tuned.
Oh, if you have a company and want to partner our team to battle it out in Gallipoli to honour the ANZAC spirit, send me an email on: firstname.lastname@example.org. Other information about the tournament can be found on the AHF website ~ www.handballaustralia.org.au ~ which also has a link to the Gallipoli Tri Nations Tournament website.
In closing, let me say that the commentaries in this article are mine alone and not necessarily reflecting those by the Australian Handball Federation.