An all-boys netball team from Queensland has hit back after sparking ugly backlash when they won a recent state title competing against girls team.
Queensland Suns Under-17 coach Tammy Holcroft told The Courier Mail that players from the only boys team to compete in the tournament were targeted with abuse by members of the crowd after they triumphed 46-12 against the Bond University Bull Sharks in the title decider.
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The decision by Netball Queensland to let the boys compete against the girls has prompted a fierce debate on social media, with many insisting that it is unfair and should never have been endorsed.
Following a wave of criticism, the Suns have defended the boys' right to compete in the tournament, and slammed some of the vitriol they've copped from the Australian sporting community.
An uproar has erupted at a Queensland junior netball competition after an all-boys team won the state championship title against their female counterparts. pic.twitter.com/HEu2ryHUCW
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) September 22, 2021
“The Queensland Suns would like to take this opportunity to ask that our players be respected and that their wellbeing particularly as junior players remains the priority,” the Suns said in a statement.
“We understand that there are many passionate people in netball, which we love, but sometimes that passion can be channelled the wrong way. While respecting everyone is entitled to an opinion, we have been subject to inappropriate behaviour and commentary.
“Whether you agree or disagree with Netball Queensland’s decision to allow us to play for the State Title, the abuse our players have received is unacceptable. Our players and club have also been targeted by comments on social media platforms. Generally, people say that they are all for boys and men being included in netball, though sadly based on recent behaviour we feel unwelcomed and unsupported.
“We do however thank Netball Queensland for including us in the State Titles and also grateful to the many others for their support.
“Despite the negativity and media attention for the wrong reasons, we are confident men’s netball will continue to grow not only here in Queensland but worldwide.”
— QLD Suns Men’s & Mixed Netball (@QLDSuns) September 23, 2021
NRL commentator and radio host Andrew Voss labelled the situation a "farce" after the boys team claimed the title on the back of an average winning margin of 29 goals per game.
“How is that common sense?” Voss said on his SEN breakfast show.
“You’re surely not going to endorse that as the way of the future, at Under-18s level.
“They say they want to be inclusive, not exclusive. That’s bulls***. It’s a farce.”
Many other critics were also outraged and insisted that if the boys were allowed to play it should have been in an exhibition-style capacity and not competing for the title.
Netball Queensland stands by contentious call
However, Netball Queensland has defended the decision to sanction the participation of the boys' team, citing a lack of opportunities for them at elite level and a desire to grow the sport.
“We stand by the decision to choose inclusion over exclusion. And, to invite the Queensland Suns to return to the State Titles given they have limited opportunities to play in a high performance environment due to low participation numbers and limited pathways,” Netball Queensland said.
“We recognise that change is sometimes uncomfortable, and we are buoyed by the support of our wider netball community who are embracing men and boys in competition formats and have done so for some time in a mixed netball capacity.
“The inclusion of both women and men in the competition in 2021 was about affording all netballers the opportunity to play and develop our great game.
“It’s also imperative that we provide a platform for men and boys to participate – because if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. And we aspire to be a sport for all.
“We would also like to express how extremely disappointed we are by the behaviour of a few people in the crowd. We want to explicitly say that this was not the behaviour of our players, rather spectators.
“We also want to make clear that we won’t tolerate vilification or abuse in any form in our game.”
Netball Queensland CEO Catherine Clark also insisted that girls team would only benefit from playing boys teams.
“We know that we can build and develop and strengthen the game of our girls by playing against the best players regardless of gender,” Clark told the ABC.
“And I still think there will be a desire from a girls perspective to play against the boys.
“Develop your skills. You get better as a player if you play against strong teams and strong players.”
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