Men’s divisions will be added to the NSW junior and senior state titles as Australia’s biggest women’s sport looks to the future.
While embracing men and boys in netball was a key recommendation of the State of the Game report, bringing males into the state title fold is not a new idea for Netball NSW, who had planned to make the shift in 202 before Covid intervened.
The state’s biggest carnival has been abandoned for the past two years due to the pandemic but hopes are high the junior and senior state titles will be held with men and boys competing fully next year.
Netball NSW chief executive Tain Drinkwater confirmed the move was a step towards Men’s Netball NSW (MNNSW) eventually becoming fully integrated with the state body.
“We had intended on launching a male division at the senior state titles in 2020 but given Covid the last two years of our state titles have been cancelled,” Drinkwater said.
“It’s certainly something that’s been part of our long-term planning, Ultimately we would love to have men’s netball and boys netball fall under Netball NSW.
“We just see it as another pathway for boys and men to play the game of netball and I think there’s tremendous opportunity to remove some of the stigma that’s associated with netball being traditionally seen as (just) a sport for women and young girls.”
The push for netball to be included in the 2032 Olympics is only likely to come to fruition if the sport is played by both sexes in several countries and Drinkwater said the inclusion of men and boys in state and national pathways was “logical”.
“Men’s Netball NSW have done a tremendous job in creating a pathway for men and boys to play and this is the next natural progression of that,” she said.
“We’re including the M-League alongside our summer series, so it is already starting to be a part of the way do business.
“We cater for young girls, we cater for young men, we cater for different races and ethnicities, so it’s creating different products and competitions to suit the end user – if we’ve got demand there, we want to create an opportunity for people to play.”
MNNSW President Clare McCabe hailed the move by Netball NSW as a massive step in the right direction.
“Our future focus emphasises the need to create pathways for junior boys to play netball and
remove all stigmas of boys and men playing the sport,” she said.
“Creating the male divisions at the state titles will lead to a huge number of additional opportunities and exposure for the men’s game.
“It will also lead to more participants and a larger talent pool for those wishing to get involved in high-performance sport.”
Their inclusion is not only a positive for the high performance area of the sport, but the overall business model.
“For so long we’ve been really siloed in our thinking just from a community perspective where men play men’s sport, girls play girls sport … and we exclude 50 per cent of the population,” Drinkwater said.
“It’s about removing those blinkers and saying we want 100 per cent of people competing in our sport, no matter who you are, we’re going to provide you with an entry level (opportunity) either at school or the association level … it has to start being a part of the conversation that’s normal.
“You (exclude any section of the community) at your own peril. People will go and choose another sport and we’re seeing that at the moment across all sports.”
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