Sports

Banned by AFLW, transgender athlete sets her sights on handball glory

Related Story: AFL clears transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey to play in state women's leagues Related Story: Mouncey's coach dismisses calls about unfair advantage

Hannah Mouncey has always loved playing handball.

She's been part of the sport for years, initially playing as a young man.

Now as a woman, she loves the game just as much.

The transgender athlete made headlines last year after the AFL ruled she was ineligible for selection in the 2018 AFLW draft.

But she is allowed to play in the VFL.

"The AFL was caught on the hop a bit last year and it is what it is. It's a new space," Mouncey said

Away from the footy field and on the handball court, Mouncey said, she is just like everyone else.

"Which is exactly what I like. A lot of the people here knew me before I transitioned. We crossed that bridge a long time ago. So I'm just like anyone else. For me it's a real non-issue."

Speaking on the sidelines of the Australian Club Championships in Geelong, Mouncey said handball had always embraced her, no matter her gender.

President of Handball Victoria Kristen Lange said she was proud to be part of such an inclusive sport, which she said was growing every year.

"All players come in all shapes and sizes. As a taller or maybe a bigger player, it is difficult. Hannah is a bit taller, she jumps a bit higher. Therefore you need to go out further, quicker in order to stop her."

Mouncey's strength and size are not seen as an unfair advantage, though, rather just other aspects for opponents to take into account when facing her on the court.

"So I think it's just a matter of finding a handball skill to stop her. We don't have a problem with that. We have other players who may be a bit larger in size as well and we have to stop them," Ms Lange said.

Hannah Mouncey playing handball on a court in Geelong.

Mouncey said handball was far more physical than AFL "because you've got that real one-on-one contact a lot, whereas AFL is a much bigger space".

She is currently training with Australia's women's handball team for the World Championship next year.

Qualifying rounds start in Japan in December and Mouncey is hoping to be cleared by the International Handball Federation to play, if the team makes it to the top five.

"The IOC [International Olympic Committee] have done a lot of work in this space and they landed on a policy that they were happy covered all sports and there was a way to judge it that took all bias out of it," she said.

Just before the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the IOC changed their policy about transgender people, allowing them to compete in the Olympics and other international events without undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

"We're hoping that in the long run they'll [International Handball Federation] adopt those guidelines too and Hannah can play for Australia as a female player," Ms Lange said.

"She's already training with the girls. So hopefully she can play with the girls".

"For us it's normal, so we just hope that people see it the same way we see it and be inclusive of anyone," Ms Lange said.

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