New Zealand korfball prospering with Dutch influence
Manon Wiegerink played in the Korfball League for TOP and Blauw-wit for seven seasons, retiring from the Blauw-wit selection in 2018. She has now taken on a new challenge, coaching New Zealand, guiding the team to qualify for the World Korfball Championship for the first time by finishing sixth at the IKF Asia Oceania Korfball Championship 2018, in Japan.
She says, compared to the korfball culture she grew up in in The Netherlands, New Zealand is very different.
“Korfball is relatively small and unknown in New Zealand, so funding for the squad is difficult, and because it is so far away from most other korfball countries, the costs are high. Unlike in Europe, we don’t have other clubs or teams to play nearby. Playing against our nearest neighbour, Australia, is a three hour flight. Even using the hall for training, which most korfballers in the Netherlands take for granted, in New Zealand we have to fit in with established sports, like basketball, football and volleyball, and take the times that they don’t want for games and training.
“That means the players have to make a big financial commitment to play for their country. They have to be motivated and dedicated to do that, which helps to create a powerful team culture and strong bonds of friendship,” she says.
Manon is only one part of the local korfball community’s Dutch influence. Two members of the squad took a leap of faith and put their hearts into New Zealand korfball development. Torsten Ball was born in New Zealand, though his mother is Dutch and the family moved to the Netherlands when Torsten was four, starting with his local korfball club, in Woudenberg, soon after. He returned to New Zealand in 2015 doing a ten month korfball-related internship as part of his sports management degree, introducing korfball to local primary school children. That programme has gone from strength to strength since, with another Dutch korfballer, Youri Borrink from DOS’46, which has strong ties with New Zealand, taking over from Torsten in 2016. Youri has now settled in New Zealand and is eligible to represent his adopted country in Durban, while Torsten, after finishing his studies, is also living back in New Zealand, working again on the korfball development programme in local schools, and preparing with the squad.
Several of the other New Zealand players are physical education teachers, so as well as training, are also busy helping to recruit their students to join the local korfball community’s next generation.
New Zealand took part in the ZZU Cup, in Zhengzhou, China in early June. Eight international teams were there, including the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei and China. Manon was satisfied with the team’s performance.
“It was good preparation for us. Our best game was our ‘final’ when we played Hong Kong for fifth place. We had the lead for most of the match, though it was always close and at the final whistle it was 22-22, so we went to golden goal. Each team had about four attacks, without success, so it was very tense, then eventually our captain, Bevan Lawson, managed to put away the golden goal,” she says.
It was the first time New Zealand has beaten Hong Kong at senior level, and a step up for the country ranked number 16 to defeat a nation ranked five places higher.
Adding to the squad that secured qualification in Saitama, several members of the 2018 New Zealand U19 squad, who finished ninth at last year’s IKF (Open) European Korfball Championship U19, and seriously tested both Portugal and Catalunya, will make the trip to Durban. One in particular has a strong korfball heritage, and yet more ties to the Netherlands: Boris van Bruchem was born in New Zealand a few months after his parents, Ewout and Liesbeth, who met playing korfball, emigrated from Rotterdam. The van Bruchem family is heavily involved in New Zealand’s growing korfball community, carrying on a legacy with the sport that includes Boris’s late grandmother, Adrie van Bruchem, who served for many years as the first professional administrator of the IKF in the 1980s and 1990s, and who was awarded the IKF Badge of Honour in 1995.
#TeamNZL IKF WKC 2019
1: Juliet Robertson
5: Kelsey Forward
6: Megan Shea
7: Sarah Bateup
8: Nicole Lloyd
10: Talesha Brooks
14: Chelsea Ruiz
16: Bevan Lawson
21: Tosten Ball
22: Simon Cooper
26: Youri Borrink
27: Carl Chung
28: Sam Bennetts
29: Boris Van Bruchem
Coach: Manon Wiegerink
Assistant coach: Pascal Van Massakkers
Manager: Helen Timms
Physiotherapist: Norma Snoek