Our senior men’s and women’s teams are both set to get their new England Handball Regional League North seasons underway this coming weekend with away matches over in the North West.
Our Vikings lads, reigning league champions, begin the defence of their first league title with a trip to take on Warrington Wolves II on Saturday, as the experienced Premier League club enter a second team in the regional league for the first time. The Vikings men, now under the guidance of Dutch coach Frank Smelt, will be looking to overcome the loss of a few players from last season’s squad and quickly gel new players into the team for this opening match.
Meanwhile, our women will travel to the Wirral to play a Peninsula team who opted to drop down from the Premier League at the end of last season after finishing 7th out of England’s top eight women’s teams. The Vikings ladies will be looking forward to the prospect of teaming up the Ogbee sisters, as younger sister Ed joins the club from Nottingham University to play alongside Blessing for the first time in league competition since they were both with Manchester six years ago, although Ed has regularly played for Newcastle Vikings in the British Beach Handball Championships.
The Vikings men will follow their opening fixture with another away league game on 2 November against a University of Manchester team who will also be making their league debut, before a home tie against their city’s National League North counterparts Manchester in the first round of the England Handball National Cup on Saturday 10 November at the Benfield Centre for Sporting Excellence (3pm throw-off).
The first home league matches of the season for both our men’s and women’s teams will then take place at the Benfield venue on Saturday 16 November when they each face the University of Leeds (12noon and 2pm throw-offs respectively).
Newcomers Trafford provide the next opponents for our women in their five-team league on 30 November, when our men will return to play the University of Manchester once again in their four-team league which will see the teams play each other three times over this season.
Our women have meanwhile gained a bye in the first round of the National Cup, which this year becomes England Handball’s only knock-out competition after their scrapping of the previous second-tier National Shield (former League Cup). With the first two rounds now regionalised to help reduce the prospect of long travel distances, they have been drawn to make their National Cup debut away to last season’s Regional League North champions Liverpool in the second round, with the fixture scheduled to take place on 18 January 2020, just a month after the Vikings host the Merseysiders in the league.
Dates, times and venues remain to be confirmed for a few of the away fixtures towards the end of the season, with the league season scheduled to come to a climax over the first weekend of April 2020, rounding off as it started with Newcastle’s men and women playing another pair of away games over in the North West. Our Vikings teams will nevertheless be looking to do well enough to extend their seasons into the promotion play-offs, as well as to win through to the National Cup quarter-finals at the end of April – the semi-finals are then scheduled for mid-May ahead of the cup finals at the start of June 2020. Meanwhile, our eighth annual end-of-season Tyneside Handball Tournament is lined up to take place on Saturday 9 May 2020 when we’ll look forward to welcoming clubs from across the country to Newcastle for another fun day of handball.
Best of luck everyone, and as always … Go Vikings!