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Why Men Should Get Behind Netball

April 2nd, 2009 · 1 Comment

ANZ Championship team captains at the 2008 season launch

ANZ Championship team captains at the inaugural season launch

I’ll declare my hand early. I sit on the Board of Netball Australia and I’m passionate about female causes.

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As I sat alongside my two sons at last night’s World Cup qualifying match between the Socceroos and Uzbekistan, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the numbers of families in attendance. Soccer-mad sons, with heritage reaching back to represent almost every major sporting nation, clad in green and gold with their little sisters cheering in concert. Mums and dads sitting nearby, pushing forward with every chance for a goal. More than 50,000 in attendance. It was a stunning game. And not only because the Socceroos won.

I contrast that with the finals of the inaugural ANZ Championship last year. The final game came down to an Australian team, the Swifts, versus a New Zealand team, Magic. In the world of netball, you couldn’t have hoped for a better finals match. The two best netball nations in the world. A mini World Netball Championship. There were around 12,000 bums on seats at ACER Arena. Believe it or not, a near record for elite netball in Australia. It was a compelling game to the very end, fast-paced, highly-skilled and tight. Netball-mad daughters covered in face paint in the colours of their beloved Swifts sat with their friends and sometimes a parent. A brother was a rare sight. I may have spotted a handful in the crowd.

As the 2009 ANZ Championship season kicks off this weekend, I am forced to wonder why girls and women are happy to embrace male sports but boys and most men are so reluctant to do the same for female sports.

A sport is a sport is a sport at an elite level – surely?

Until males can appreciate women for their talents and achievements, rather than just the way they look, they’ll find it difficult to evolve and we will continue to be faced with the kinds of male-female social issues that are potentially life-ruining for both genders.

I know that I’d like to find a way forward for my sons and their generation. We need to find ways (plural) for young men to celebrate women and sport does seem like relatively low-hanging fruit, if only we can start pointing them in the right direction.

Women watch the footy (all codes) in the rain, support the cricket when we’re losing, even cheer for the old, goofy golfers. But the majority of men won’t allow themselves to enjoy the extraordinary display of netball athleticism, at which Australia leads the world, lest they … what? Discover they’re gay?

I know I’m biased but unless young boys watch their fathers cheering on female sports and other non-sexual endeavours, the cycle will continue.

Photo: News Limited

Tags: Heroes · Sport

1 response so far ↓

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