Netball Queensland has caused a furore this week, after allowing an all-boys team to compete in the 2021 Queensland state titles that saw them win the final against a regional all-girls team.
The Queensland Suns under-17 boys team beat the Gold Coasts’ Bond University Bull Sharks 46-12 in the final, with The Courier Mail reporting that the boys were subjected to unacceptable abuse from the crowd for their victory over the girls team. The Queensland Suns were the only boys team in the entire tournament.
Netball Queensland has since come under fire for its decision to allow the boys state level team to compete in a competition with regional level all-girls teams. Meanwhile, the QLD Suns boys team has said the way they were treated by the crowd, and on social media since, has been inappropriate.
Netball Queensland said it stands by the decision, and having men and women play each other was not unusual in their high-performance pathway, and typically, it is seen as a development opportunity.
“We want to make clear that there is a place for everyone in our sport,” a statement from Netball Queensland reads. “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.
“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.
“We’d like to address the assertion that the young women who played the State Titles were disadvantaged in any way. Our intent, from the outset, was to ensure all athletes were encouraged to perform to their best ability in a high-performance environment.
“The adult men’s teams regularly train against our Sapphire and Firebirds teams so, this is not new to our high-performance pathway. In fact, our senior teams played and drew 66 all in their most recent competition demonstrating the depth of talent and benefits of our women’s teams playing against the men’s teams.”
QLD Netball also said it is important men and boys are given opportunities to play the predominantly female sport and is planning to prepare a standalone competition for boys in this age group in 2022.
“While we have been subject to commentary around the different physical attributes it should also be remembered that men are new participants to our sport and play a different style of netball,” it said. “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.”
“Given the evolving conversations and overwhelming support for the inclusion of boy’s and men’s teams, we are now preparing for a stand-alone competition in this age group at the State Titles in 2022.”
Meanwhile, the QLD Suns boys team released a statement condemning the negative commentary they had received for participating in the competition.
“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,” they said in a statement. “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.”
They said they would like to see a boys and mens category at the State Titles next year, and would encourage other men and boys to join the sport.
CEO of Netball Queensland, Catherine Clark told the ABC the organisation is trying to be inclusive of the boys, who otherwise who have limited opportunities to play at all.
“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 said.
“And I still think there will be a desire from a girls perspective to play against the boys.”