Newquay’s first season has drawn to a close, and what a journey it has been for Cornwall’s first and only competitive Handball club; finishing with two wins, a draw, and some highly competitive narrow defeats. Earning the club an impressive 5th in the South & West Development League.
All of this against teams based in large cities as far away as Oxford, Cardiff, Bath, Bristol and Southampton. These long established clubs benefit from the backing of major universities, outstanding existing facilities, and experienced players from all over the world. Make no mistake, in such a short space of time Newquay’s achievements have exceeded all expectations.
NHC is a shining example of Olympic Legacy; proof that bringing top level sport to the country can inspire. Handball was one of the surprise success stories from London 2012, captivating a consistently sold-out Copper Box and enthralling millions of TV viewers. Clubs throughout the country saw a spike in participation; Bristol reported 44 new players coming to training in the weeks following The Games. New clubs sprouted up here and there, but where many of them fell from lack of funding/facilities/coaching expertise, Newquay have gone from strength to strength.
Luck has played it’s part, however, with handball genius Jürgen Koenen moving to Cornwall at the point of the clubs inception. Without his expert guidance as coach there’s no way the NHC would have progressed to the level they are now.
The first training session was held at Newquay Treviglas Sports Hub in October 2012, with 18 willing participants, a bag of Handballs kindly purchased by Worlds Apart, and a large dose of blind enthusiasm. The evening was a success, thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Sessions continued weekly with mats up against the walls until some inflatable goals were acquired.
At this time Plymouth were also beginning to develop the sport through the University and Marjon’s college. Within a few weeks a three way friendly tournament was on the cards. NHC’s first taste of team Handball, and a sign of things to come.
It wasn’t always plain sailing, with a number of founding members moving away from Cornwall for work reasons. Some weeks training consisted of only four or five people. It’s hard enough to set up any new club, but to set up a new club and a whole new sport in a region is seriously tough. Zero existing facilities, zero equipment, zero funding, zero experience for most of the players.
However, there has always been a feeling that Newquay are building something special, pioneering a new sport for Cornwall. Through word of mouth, and support from The Newquay Voice, Radio Cornwall and other local press, news spread that Newquay have a Handball club, and numbers slowly increased.
Without any local competition it’s hard for a new club to gain match experience, so another friendly was arranged with Plymouth. This time a full 60minute encounter. It was a great day for this team of newbies, starting the game slowly but ending with a flourish, and leaving players wanting more.
The development of Beach Handball is another major factor in the club’s rise. With the abundance of stunning beaches in Newquay, and the sport of Handball progressing nicely, it was a no-brainer to combine the two.
Beach Handball is a variation of the main sport; Sandball is to Handball what 20-20 Cricket is to Test Matches. A fast and fun game which rewards flamboyance, awarding double points for extravagant goals.
News of the sport spread far and wide, with magnificent media coverage, including an interview on Simon Mayo’s drive time Radio 2 show.
On the 2nd August 2014 Newquay will be hosting the second annual Sandball Day in conjunction with Watergate Bay Hotel. Another great day of fast and furious entertainment is guaranteed!
Joining the competitive league
With so many hurdles to jump in order to get the club ready for competition, NHC would have been forgiven for deciding not to take part in competitive Handball for a season, and focus on playing friendlies. But that is not how Newquay roll. They take the bull by the horns and drive forward, solving any issues as they arise.
And there were many issues. Where do they play? How to they fund themselves? Do they have enough players? Can they compete? Do they dare?
Handball is played on a 40m x 20m indoor court, something the UK – let alone Cornwall – is not well equipped with. With this lack of facilities in mind, England Handball allows teams to play on a minimum 33m x 18m sized court. This still limited Newquay’s choices, and ruled out a local home venue. After much to-ing and fro-ing, weighing up options like Carne Brae and Truro School’s new facility, they finally settled in Bodmin Dragon Centre.
On to the next obstacle: lines. Luckily Newquay winger Eddie Percy-Hughes came up with an ingenious contraption for applying Duct Tape in a curve for create the D’s.
Ideas for score charts, timers and displays came from Lee Springett and Kevin Welsh. Add to this willing officials Rowan Blewett and Hauke Moll, Devon Handball’s Aym Dupuy as an expert ref, and Newquay’s home set up was pretty slick.
Off to a flyer – almost
Newquay’s debut competitive game was away to Bath, last season’s champions. The new boys caught Bath by surprise, taking them all the way to 18-18 with one minute remaining. Only to loose by one last minute goal. With a more experienced players – and a better qualified referee – NHC would have been celebrating an unlikely victory.
Two defeats followed as Newquay baptism of fire continued against Bristol and Oxford respectively. Then came the visit of Cardiff to the Cornish Handball arena, Newquay produced their finest hour so far with a magnificent 24-13 victory.
This form continued into the return fixture with Bath, who were a much improved side at this point in the season. Newquay went down 30-39, but an excellent performance provided inspiration for the forthcoming Bristol encounter; which turned out to be a memorable day.
The culmination of a year of hard work, training, and dedication. NHC took Bristol, a team with a long history of league titles, right to the wire, earning a 20-20 draw away from home. This result turned heads throughout the country, and put Newquay on the Handball map.
Next up was an epic weekend of Handball as Southampton brought their huge squad down to Newquay for a double header. Southampton’s strength in depth proved too much as they came in victorious, with an 8 point margin in the first and a mere 3 point game in the second.
The final game of the season saw Newquay travel to Cardiff for their second clash. NHC once again came out on top, this time by an immense 36 points to 10. Apt reward for the players, the coach, the committee and officials. Everyone involved has played their part Newquay’s rise from nothing, to a nationally recognised and respected Handball team.
The 2013/14 season is a magnificent building block for the future. With an under 16’s club, and young players coming through such as Ben Haddrell, the future is bright for Newquay – and Cornish Handball in general.
Exhibition match against English champions
Newquay are proud to announce that national league and cup champions, Salford HC are will be entertaining crowds the Bodmin Dragon Centre in an end-of-season exhibition match. Newquay’s players will be lining up against 2 Olympians, 7 GB/ENG internationals and 5 current U21 GB Squad members, plus an Olympic and current GB coach. It is a spectacle not to be missed.
The game will be on the 14th June, with under 16 Handball workshops to be held on the 15th. Both are to be held in Cornwall’s one and only Handball arena, The Bodmin Dragon Centre.