4th June 2018
In a corner of north east Manchester, NEM Hawks handball club is establishing a dynasty of talented young British handball players – destined for the top.
Hawks was established in 2010 by Donna Hankinson who, along with Sue Whitehead, has built one of the top clubs in the country.
Harry Morley, 20, is a British prospect who plays age-group handball for GB. He is now pushing for senior selection having been the top goal scorer in the Premier Handball League [then called Super-8] last season. Morley, who was in Sheffield Wednesday’s academy as a talented footballer from the age of 6 until 14, explained the attraction of the sport. He said: “I like how fast it is, I like the physical side of it, I like the competition. I don’t really function well without competition and pressure in my life.
“I get to travel a lot with handball and I like the speed and physicality of it and the challenge. I was playing senior level for the club from the age of 16 which was a big challenge.” Morley laughs that it’s a lot more physical than football. He added: “I’ve had more injuries playing handball for five years than I did playing football for 10! I come away every week with some sort of bruise.”
Club-mate Paige Schofield agrees that it’s the speed of handball that makes it so addictive. She said: “It’s the hype of the sport! There’s contact, but it’s not too physical, and I like the social side and meeting new people, and it gives you a real buzz! The matches are really, really fast. It keeps you on your toes.”
Schofield came into handball having played netball at school and is now playing for the GB under-17s. She added: “I played netball for eight years and then quit netball to play handball.”
So what are Hawks doing to create such a production line of talented handball players? According to GB Under-20 player Charlie Fletcher it’s about the culture of the club. Charlie, who has been at Hawks since he was 15, like all the players at Hawks credit head coach Donna Hankinson – a former BT Coach of the Year. “A lot of it’s down to Donna, she’s an unbelievable coach, and the environment that’s been created – it’s something special” says Fletcher.
“We train together with the seniors, and there’s a few of our under-19s who are heavily involved with the senior side. The more we train together the more it pushes our under -18 skill onwards, and the more it almost pressurizes the senior team to train hard and improve.”
Morley agrees that Hankinson is the reason for the positive culture that exists at Hawks. He said: “When you start getting a group of players that have good ability, then the players that come in always have to step up and reach that ability. When you’re playing with better players, it makes you better. “Our under-19 team at the minute are all 16 or 17 years old, so they’re now working their way up and playing in the mens’ team – they’ve made all the older players better, and all the older players make the younger players better, so it goes hand-in-hand.”
The Under 19 boys’ team were runners-up this year in the national competition, after their 2017 victory. The Under 19 girls’ team have previously dominated the competition and this year made it through to the quarter-finals stage. Watch this space. Something special is happening in North-East Manchester.
Are you interested in playing this exciting, high scoring, action packed, fun team sport? If so contact NEM Hawks Handball Club at firstname.lastname@example.org