A furious debate has erupted on social media after an all-boys netball team won a Queensland state title competing against female rivals.
The Queensland Suns Under-17 team were reportedly subjected to ugly abuse after winning the Under-18s championship against women's teams in Brisbane this week.
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According to The Courier Mail, 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.
Suns coach Tammy Holcroft said: “The abuse ranged from comments made courtside deliberately within earshot of the Suns contingent, to adults making vulgar comments directly behind the team bench.
“It’s disappointing that the frustration was directed at the players.
“At the very core of this, our boys just want to play and they copped the brunt of these comments and behaviours and were made to feel unwelcomed and unsupported.”
Netball Queensland CEO Catherine Clark explained the decision to allow the boys team to compete for the title in 2021, despite many insisting they should never have only been allowed to compete in an exhibition-style capacity.
“This year, in an effort to showcase the talent in both female and male pathways we offered the Queensland Sun’s men’s team the opportunity to play in the Nissan State Titles having welcomed the Suns in an invitational capacity in 2020,” Clark said.
“Just as we have seen in New Zealand with the Cadbury Series, where the Silver Ferns play against the New Zealand Men’s Netball team, we are hopeful this will be the catalyst for a stand-alone men’s competition in 2022 and inspires more boys to get involved in netball.”
While some applauded the move to allow the boys to play against girls, many insisted it was unfair on the female teams and should never have been endorsed by Netball Queensland.
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.”
Similar criticism came flying in thick and fast in comments on a Netball Queensland Facebook post, praising the success of the state titles.
Okay #netballTwitter open to honest feedback here. Did Netball Queensland get this one wrong or until there are genuine avenues for boys to play, should they be included in girls championships? https://t.co/QiaJpWl5ez
— Emma Greenwood (@EmmaGreenwood12) September 22, 2021
Boys team's title win sparks outrage
One user Jason Ward wrote: “It is an absolute disgrace. How these decisions get made who know. Absolute stupidity and inclusiveness gone mad. Done nothing to inspire girls who were humiliated.”
Joe Muir added: “I don’t know of any sport in the world that would have allowed this to happen, total disgrace.”
I think Netball Queensland screwed up really badly here.
Not only hurt the girls who have trained so hard & made mockery of championships but put the Suns in a really shitty position too when they need more support from netball fans to get a boys/mens comp running. https://t.co/mdoXQ36pfH
— Noely ⚡️🏐 (@YaThinkN) September 22, 2021
This is why we have sex segregation in sport.
A mixed netball team and league is a totally different product and it's the choice of the female players to play that. If there aren't enough men's teams for a league, why not create a mixed one and carry on trying to get more men?
— Carolyn Hughes (@cazzrhughes) September 22, 2021
They could have been included in comp but as an exhibition team meaning they would get game practice but couldn’t win championship. See this in swimming sometimes where state level swimmers can compete but not medal if lower level meet.
— Vivienne 💉💉 (@viviennecichero) September 22, 2021
Another critic, Alain De Villiers said it was obvious from watching games that the female sides were unhappy about having to play against boys.
“While everyone is patting themselves on the back for being inclusive and allowing boys to play in this comp … has anyone stopped to ask the girls how they feel about this?” He wrote.
“What I saw during the comp was a bunch of excited energetic competitive girls … until they played the boys!
“After each game against the boys (where every team was beaten convincingly may I add) I watched girls become suddenly deflated and unenthused. It seemed most girls were initially keen to play the boys only to face the reality that the boys were physically stronger, could move faster and jump higher.
“Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see this is not good for netball. Please stop bringing your politics into this and think of the players.
“I am not hating on the boys at all, on the contrary I have utmost respect for them, they treated the girls were (sic) absolute respect and played hard and fair.
“I even heard a whisper they offered to withdraw from the grand final. Let’s keep netball fair and ensure boys play against boys, for everyone’s sake.”
The team that finished runner-up also posted a message on Facebook specifically referencing their undefeated achievement against "other women's teams".
The Bull Sharks wrote: “Congratulations on an outstanding tournament to our 18U Women. Undefeated by other women’s teams for the week and runners up in the State Titles.”
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