Earlier this month, Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin stated to Ten News that Men’s netball was “on its way” but the International Netball Federation (INF) has confirmed it has not yet started “a pathway for the development of the Men’s game”.
Women’s netball has been played at the Commonwealth games since 1998 but 20 years later Men’s teams are not eligible to compete.
The INF reviewed its position on male participation in netball earlier this year, which maintains that its “primary focus at International level will remain ‘female only’ netball.” This is to preserve netball’s high level of female participation and help combat the “existing global inequity in sport.”
The Australian Sport Commissions (ASC) AusPlay survey estimates that almost 3% of the Australian population plays netball. Over 500,000 women play netball each year and it remains a top pick for girls coming second only to swimming. A representative from the Australian men’s and mixed netball association (AMMNA) estimates that over 20,000 males play in any given year.
Recent Australian Opens team recruit Josh Byron has played netball since the age of 14 and wants to see the sport become an Olympic event with men as accepted as representative players.
‘‘When we think about gender equality in sport we always think of women because 99% of the time sports are male dominated,” he said.
“Imagine if cricket Australia came out and said we aren’t going to recognise female participation. Netball needs to be recognised as a non-gendered sport before it can be recognised as an olympic sport.”
A majority of the Australian male and female teams are aligned and sometimes come together to play. Mr Byron says that although “the state and national bodies are really supportive” men’s netball, even at a representative level, is sometimes under-resourced and often relies on volunteers.
“Mens netball is not for profit and volunteer based where as women’s is highly profitable,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t get the recognition it’s that we don’t have the resources.”
Mr Byron also told Hatch that men’s state netballers aren’t paid to play and are also expected to pay for international and home tours themselves.
“We have to pay for everything,” he said. “A home tour costs around $2000 and an international tour can be upwards of $4000.”
Josh Byron will goal keep for Australia for the first time in the Trans Tasman Cup later this year and is confident that the Aussies can go all the way.
“It’s crazy to think that I’m the one people look up to instead of the other way around. I cant wait to put on the green and gold. We have a fit young team ready for October.”