The merit of mixed netball

For years I thought that the only men who willingly play netball were:

  • gay
  • dragged kicking and screaming by their girlfriends
  • single, and have had the epiphany that fit women flock to netball

Typical single man before epiphany

And after playing mixed netball for around 5 years now I can safely tell you that… I was right. Those are the only reasons men play netball. But netball does have merit, and men should be more open to the idea than they are.

Let’s break it down logically (AKA Man-Style).

Men Netball
Logical The rules seem to have been plucked from thin air.
Competitive Intensely passive aggressive, instead of just plain ol’ fashioned openly aggressive
Enjoy destroying someone else’s momentum with a well timed tackle or bump Mandates that each player voluntarily destroy their own momentum any time they touch the ball, shattering their own ankles in the process
Enjoy being able to run, jump, walk and having full function of lower limbs Clearly devised by a financially struggling physiotherapist
Prefer to maintain masculinity at all times Defence is impossible to play without recreating Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

CONTACT, GOAL DEFENCE!

So why play at all? Well these are reasons that netball can actually be fun.

It’s a hell of a cardio workout. Playing a whole game in WD, C or WA is going to leave you sweaty, sucking in some deep breaths, and leave your feet and ankles aching. Imagine running an intense witches-hat obstacle course, then running 20m in a straight line, then doing another obstacle course and so on and so forth… over and over for nearly an hour, and you get the general idea. If you play as GK, GS, GD or GA you’re not going to be quite as spent, but you have the added bonus of a more physical, niggling, elbow-to-your-back, “accidentally”-trip-you-up encounter.

Accepted form of defence in netball

Athleticism matters. In the lower leagues most coordinated men can get away with relying purely on athleticism without ever having to learn a single thing about netball! Huzzah! Strategy becomes important in more advanced leagues, but any guy with decent athleticism should pick up the basics pretty quick. It’s a fast paced game, and your ability to control your body is key.

How China doesn't dominate netball is beyond me

Antagonise your opponent. In a game where a team is expected to score every time they get within 2m of the ring, it is more satisfying as a defender to shut down your opponent. Defence is thankless work in most sports, and netball is no different… but it’s still fun to notice your opponent get madder and madder.

Maybe hold back if you line up opposite Bruce Banner

Netball chicks be crazy. Remember how I said that you can antagonise your opponent? Well I would also advise you to pick your battles. You will quickly learn to recognised what I like to call ‘Crazy Netball Chick Eyes.’

Like these, only without the shotgun

Honestly, for a sport that is nominally non-contact, you’ll rarely see a woman who plays netball at a decent level pull out of a contest. They throw themselves at the ball without hesitation or regard for physical wellbeing. If you happen to be in the way, so be it. This is a positive, because I’ve come to realise that guys who “go easy” on the girls are making a huge mistake. They will not be going easy on you. If anything, they’ll be exploiting your condescending approach and using it to beat you.

Teamwork. The nature of the game means that doing it all yourself is difficult if not impossible. You can’t carry the ball the length of the court yourself. You can’t defend a shot at one end and then shoot at the other. You rely on team-mates and you rely on strategy. Netball punishes a weak link more than any sport I know, which makes teamwork even more important. You need seven players working together the entire time. Any team where three guys don’t trust their female team-mates is going nowhere fast.

My TEAM: The crowd went nuts after our Premiership!

So ultimately netball is a flawed sport that is an absolute terror on your knees and ankles. It’s frustrating to learn and the rules make no sense whatsoever. But it’s a good workout and requires a combination of speed, agility and quick hands. It requires a whole team working together, and at the same time it requires that you engage your direct opponent at every turn.

So if you’re a guy and you fit one of the three categories I outlined at the start, give netball a try. After all, it’s most definitely more manly than American Football.

Good game... now hit the showers!

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One Response to The merit of mixed netball

  1. Leora Cossens says:

    Maaaaaate.
    ’bout time you wrote one on mixed netty. I’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat for the past month!

    Just to generate some discussion:

    a) Rather enjoyed the play on male stereotypes. But what about fathers who want to bond with their daughters? Or footy and basketball dudes that want to boast their athletic prowess? Or the guys who are hopeless at all sports but consider netball a “girl’s sport” thus something they could surely do too?

    b) Re: the section entitled “it’s a hell of a cardio workout”. I agree that C is a good workout; but let me argue that as someone who plays both midcourt and shooting positions, the wings’ workout is nothing compared to GA and GD. They have an increased surface area to cover, in addition to an increased amount of stretching/defending, shooting and rebound jumping when compared with the wingers. Not to discredit wingers, but GA and GD have it harder!

    c) The technical rules in Netball are an absolute joke!! And I’d know, I’m an umpire! Firstly, they are rarely conducive to athleticism and/or skill. E.g. “jumping from out of court” rule, the “over a third” rule and “shooting from outside the ring” rule. Secondly, what’s with the name and shame penalty when you contact or obstruct?! Not only do you have to stand beside, but technically you’re not allowed to speak or move either! All this for a small bump or for standing 2.95 feet of your opponent (with your hands up). Crazy I tells ya!

    Cheers for the article Shane!

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