Monday, 19 February 2024 - 1:39pm

Playing a hand in historic win

3 min read

News article photos (1 items)

Constable Aston Lang in action for the New Zealand handball team in Bahrain.

Invercargill Constable Aston Lang is back on the beat after an historic trip to Bahrain as part of the New Zealand Handball team.

The Kiwi team achieved their first international match victory at an Asian Championship against India at the January tournament held in Bahrain.

Aston played a huge role in the historic victory, scoring a perfect six goals from six attempts.

It was a hard-fought path to this moment for Aston, who has been part of the national team framework since 2018. He and his teammates are all part-time athletes, and were pitted against fully professional handball players backed by their government’s funding and resources at the tournament.

“We all paid our own way and had to fundraise to even get there,” says Aston, “we were the only team who paid to get there.”

“Managing that, on top of our work responsibilities… We had guys who were still working remotely throughout the tournament, up late at night doing their jobs.”

“It all added a layer of complexity and difficulty to getting there, but I guess it made the winning part feel extra satisfying.”

While the New Zealand team’s resources and funding may have been lacking, it certainly didn’t take away any motivation from Aston and his teammates to achieve their collective goal of winning a game at the tournament.

“We knew we weren’t going to have much luck against the teams we faced in our group stages, but we also knew we would learn a lot.

“So, coming in to that final match against India there was an expectation we would use everything we learnt in the previous games.

“More than anything, we really believed we had the chance to win the match, and being the last game it just had to be this one.”

The ecstatic feeling that came with the final buzzer was clearly palpable within the team, and Aston is still buzzing from the experience.

“I remember as the match was coming to the final minutes, I was just checking the scoreboard – checking to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. When the buzzer went it was like a weight off our shoulders... Very emotional.”

The emotions continued through to the post-game debriefing, where a couple of senior New Zealand players who were leaving the squad after many years were sent off with a haka.

The haka, which the New Zealand team performed before every match, is very special itself. Composed especially for the handball team and titled Te Kapa Pā-ringa ō Pango, the unique haka contains references to the sport of handball.

The haka also provided a memorable experience for a brand new fan of New Zealand handball.

“It was such a cool story – some of the team were walking in a mall when a young boy and his family stopped them because they saw their New Zealand uniforms.

“It turned out the boy was really interested in haka, and asked them all about it. So,they invited him and his family to our next game. They came along and he was front and centre for it – he loved it and sharing that with them was such a cool experience.”

With history made and a major goal achieved, Aston now has his sights set on a new handball objective, and this time a little closer to home than Bahrain - getting a team up and running in Southland.