Huge cup weekend for North-west handball clubs
The North West is well represented at the semi-final stage of the England Handball National Cup and National Shield.
Warrington Wolves, NEM Hawks and Manchester Handball Club are all through to the last-four stage of either the Cup or the Shield.
Hawks Mens’ and Womens’ teams are both just one step away from the England Handball National Cup finals at Derby Arena on 12 May.
Hawks men, Cup runners-up in 2018, have an eye on the double. In the league they are three points behind leaders London GD but have a game in hand, with five league matches remaining. In the Cup semi-final, they face fellow Premier Handball League outfit Cambridge.
Hawks women will play Reading Lionesses in the Cup semi-final. When these two teams played in the league in December, it was 30-18 to Hawks so the Mancunians will be hoping to repeat that verdict.
Coach Donna Hankinson says the club are inching closer to silverware. She said: “These are exciting times for NEM Hawks but we haven’t still won anything as a senior club. Every season we get closer to the more established squads, and the girls beating reigning champions London GD in their quarter final is one our biggest achievements at senior level. It’s really instilled some self-belief in the squad.”
Hankinson says the key to success will be staying in the moment.
“We need to take each game as it comes and remain focused on our performance rather than think about the prize at stake. Both squads are young and inexperienced but playing matches at the level we currently are is the only way to develop the skill set we need to carry on developing and improving.
“Both games will be tough but anything is possible if we perform to our optimum level.”
Warrington Wolves are five-time winners of the Mens’ National Cup. They were beaten by the eventual winners London GD at this stage of the competition last year.
Like Hawks, they are still in the running for a league and Cup double, sitting four points behind the leaders with a game in hand.
They will play West London Eagles in the semi-final of the National Cup.
If both Wolves and Hawks win their semi-finals, it will mean an all-North West final between these two heavyweight handball clubs.
Manchester has qualified for both men’s and women’s teams for the Shield semi-finals, where they will play Essex and London GD II respectively. Manchester men are currently second, behind Liverpool, in the National League North. The Shield finals will also be at Derby Arena, on 11 May.
A spokesperson for the womens’ team said: “We worked hard as a team to get to where we are. Having no goalkeeper this season means that as a team we had to step up and all cover different positions allowing everyone to push themselves and learn more. Our team bond is key in our defence and reaching our goals.
A mens’ team spokesperson added: “We had a hard start to the season, with a small squad of players and injuries. The group, however, started to work closer together, review its objectives and, as a team, worked hard to reach these objectives.
We have reached the semi-finals of the National Shield due to team work, commitment, and friendship between the players.
“The run in this competition has helped us develop as players and we really want to reach the finals.”
To find out more about tickets for National Finals weekend please click here.