Founded in 2012, amidst the aftermath of Olympic fever, the Newcastle Vikings became the first developmental Handball club to hail from the city. Despite their humble beginnings, the club set out on a mission to grow Handball in the North East. Four years on, the club and the sport is showing great promise.
The Newcastle Vikings currently boast a Men’s, Women’s and Junior team. The Men’s and Women’s teams both compete in the England Handball North Regional Development League. The Vikings made their debut in the league last season, with both sides finishing in an impressive 4th position.
As the Vikings enter the latter half of only their second year in the Development League, both teams look set for top four finishes once more. Last Saturday, the Men’s team beat the combined outfit Leeds Hornets/University of Huddersfield, at their home venue at South Shields’ Temple Park Leisure Centre.
"The Newcastle Vikings currently boast a Men’s, Women’s and Junior team"
Despite starting the match as underdogs, with the visitors 2nd in the table, the Vikings sailed into a 3-1 lead thanks to an early hat-trick from left-winger Gracjan Joppek. Joppek, who is Polish, was one of 5 non-British members of the diverse 10-man Vikings squad, epitomising the international appeal of Handball.
Left-half Athbi Almarzouq, a Kuwaiti student studying at Northumbria University, extended the Vikings’ lead to 6-2 later in the half. A two-minute sin-bin for the opposition number 4 allowed the hosts to stretch their advantage to 10-3 before the first time-out. The two teams then traded blows, before going into half time at 13-6.
The start of the second period was a much more even encounter. Daniel Walsh in the Vikings’ goal was called into action on a couple of occasions as the visitors tried to mount a comeback. Leeds/Huddersfield added to their tally, but a breakaway goal from Matthew Lamb soon restored the 7-goal difference.
"Left-half Athbi Almarzouq, a Kuwaiti student studying at Northumbria University, extended the Vikings’ lead to 6-2"
Almarzouq and Joppek were amongst the scorers as both sides shared a flurry of late goals. The Vikings held on, with the match finishing 22-15. However, the day’s entertainment was far from over as the Vikings played host to the second round of the North East Handball Tournament, against teams from Durham and York.
Organised by Vikings’ Head Coach Marlen Slinning, the friendly tournament is designed to help develop Handball across the North East of England. “The plan for us is to get more clubs in the North East”, Slinning explained. “In the UK, I think Handball is actually growing, but here in the North East we are a step behind most places.”
Neither Newcastle University or Northumbria University currently field an official Handball team, but Slinning is hopeful that the Vikings can work closely with the Universities in the future. “We want Handball to be active within the Universities. We would want to work together with any University clubs to develop Handball in the North East.”
“In the UK, I think Handball is actually growing, but here in the North East we are a step behind most places”
Slinning, who comes from Norway and has years of Handball experience, also wants to develop the sport amongst younger children. “We have sessions for children down to the age of 8, we are trying to get kids involved at a younger age. So we have improved, in that we started with just Women and Men and now we offer Handball for kids, but it is a slow process to develop Handball in the North East.”
For more information, visit: http://newcastlehandball.co.uk