3 Jul 2019

High performing NZ men's netball team draws more boys to sport

6:58 pm on 3 July 2019

A regional netball association will run a secondary school tournament for boys next month as a way of keeping more of them involved in the sport.

Boys playing netball

Photo: Supplied / Netball New Zealand

Other associations are also trialing mixed leagues and beach netball to bridge the gap from intermediate school to men's level netball.

The increasing interest from boys comes as the New Zealand men's team are riding high after playing their first televised match against the Silver Ferns.

New Zealand Men's and Mixed Netball Association president David Pala'amo said the reaction to the game had been amazing.

But if any older boys were inspired by the men's team, Mr Pala'amo said they would be hard pushed to play once they leave intermediate school.

"Once they get to that 13-year-old stage, there's a little bit of a gap and they're probably left in limbo of where to go with their sport," he said.

"Some of them might probably go to basketball or volleyball or something like that but as far as netball goes in the school grade they have nowhere to go."

It was an issue that the regional associations and Netball New Zealand were grappling with.

Netball Manawatū general manager Chris Gunn said boys' participation had increased and they wanted to capture that enthusiasm for the game.

"For us, we'll be running a secondary school boys competition and that's to really give more boys an opportunity to be involved in netball in a playing capacity," Mr Gunn said.

"Obviously, we already have lots of males umpiring which is another part of the puzzle."

Boys playing netball

Photo: Supplied / Netball New Zealand

Netball Manawatū was not trying to steal boys from other codes, rather just offer different options to continue a sport they were enjoying.

"From there we'll be able to better ascertain the numbers [of boys] that are around in that secondary school space," Mr Gunn said.

"Then we'll be able to put on a follow on competition or league that they can be a part of."

Netball New Zealand was keen to keep boys playing netball as it was an important part of its youth strategy.

Its head of community netball, Ruth Stanley, said it was great to see more boys playing and associations working on ways to include older boys in the game.

"Hawke's Bay Netball, they've got some Kiwi sport funding and they've been delivering a mixed league," Ms Stanley said.

"Wellington Netball are going to be working through having a mixed league so they can try and encourage more boys to come through so they can start to develop the all-boys league."

Invercargill, Nelson and the Mainland Associations were also trialing secondary school competitions, including a beach netball tournament.

While it won't happen overnight, change was coming for boys who wanted to continue with netball, Ms Stanley said.

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