An all-boys netball team that was verbally abused by parents after thrashing a girls team in a state grand final has hit back at their critics.
The Queensland Suns condemned the hostile reception after their Under 17s team beat the all-female Bond University Bull Sharks 46-12 at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on Sunday.
‘We understand that there are many passionate people in netball, which we love, but sometimes that passion can be channelled the wrong way,’ the Suns said in a statement.
Several spectators levelled vile insults against the players and coach with many outraged that an all-boys team was allowed to play against an all-girls team.
‘While respecting everyone is entitled to an opinion, we have been subject to inappropriate behaviour and commentary,’ the Suns said.
‘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.
An all-boys netball team that was verbally abused by parents after thrashing a girls team in a state grand final has hit back at their critics (pictured, Queensland Suns players pose for a photograph with Bond University Bull Sharks rivals)
The Queensland Suns condemned the hostile reception after their Under 17s team beat the all-female Bond University Bull Sharks 46-12 at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena
‘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.’
The Suns said the club would continue to promote men’s netball despite the ‘negative’ media attention.
Queensland Suns president Steve Curr praised the team for their composure despite the hostility from the spectators.
‘Really proud to the boys how they handled and reacted to it,’ he told Channel Nine’s Today Show on Friday.
‘It would have been easy to have been swept up there and bit back.’
Mr Curr revealed the boys had not been able to play in a competition for the last two years – partly because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘This was to try to give them an opportunity to try to participate,’ he said.
‘We just wanted to play. Unfortunately it wasn’t well received by most people when they were in the finals. I guess they are bigger and more stronger than the girls. But it is not unusual for the girls to practice to play against the boys.’
Suns head coach Tammy Holcroft said it was ‘disappointing’ to hear some of the comments made by parents sitting in the stands.
‘The abuse ranged from comments made courtside deliberately within earshot of the Suns contingent, to adults making vulgar comments directly behind the team bench,’ she told The Courier-Mail.
‘It’s disappointing that the frustration was directed at the players.’
Netball Queensland defended its decision to include the boys in the tournament, where they easily won their seven games on the way to the title, on the basis they had nowhere else to play due to the lower number of male players.
‘This year in an effort to show case the talent in both female and male pathways we offered the QLD Suns Men’s team the opportunity to play in the Nissan State Titles, having welcomed them in an invitational capacity last year,’ it stated.
‘We acknowledge this has caused controversy, but it in no way justifies the abuse, intimidation experienced by our players and officials,’ the Queensland Suns said in a statement
Netball Queensland defended the decision to include the boys was because they had no where else to play and encourage other male players of the sport
‘We are hopeful this will be a catalyst for a stand alone men’s competition in 2022.’
The organisation said senior netball teams the Queensland Firebirds and Sapphires regularly trained against male players.
‘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 boys’ team released its own statement in which it said it participated in the competition ‘to highlight the possibilities for boys in the sport’.
‘Queensland Suns acknowledges the perceptions of disadvantage or unfairness for the girls regional teams, however the purpose of the opportunity afforded to us was not to overshadow them, but to provide some much-needed exposure on a significant stage,’ it said.
‘We acknowledge this has caused controversy, but it in no way justifies the abuse, intimidation experienced by our players and officials.
‘No athlete, in any sport, should be subjected to this behaviour for any reason.’
NRL great Cameron Smith addressed the controversy on SEN this morning after his wife Barbara had watched a match the Suns played against the daughter of Smith’s former Melbourne Storm teammate Matt Geyer during the tournament.
NRL great Cameron Smith (left) said his wife Barbara (right) had attended one of the Queensland Suns’ matches during the week. ‘The males were just too fast, too physical, it was just a disadvantage to the girls,’ he told SEN radio
‘She just said Matt’s daughter’s team were a gun side and they had no chance, Smith said.
‘The males were just too fast, too physical, it was just a disadvantage to the girls.
‘It’s crazy. How do you put one male team in against all the other females and expect the girls to compete? Particularly at that age when they’re still developing. It’s not fair.
‘That’s a weird one to enter a male team in the netball competition.’
NRL commentator Andrew Voss agreed on the SEN breakfast show, calling the match ‘a farce’.
‘How is that common sense? 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***.’
Comments online from parents and netball fans expressed concern for the mental health of the players after the encounter.
‘We will lose girls to the sport if this is what their biggest competition for their year at this level means,’ one person wrote.
‘Women athletes at this age are at a disadvantage to the males – let’s look at average height, weight, arm span and jump height for the top teams. Unrealistic at this level.’
Others criticised Netball Queensland for turning the titles into a laughing stock.
‘Women athletes at this age are at a disadvantage to the males – let’s look at average height, weight, arm span and jump height for the top teams. Unrealistic at this level,’ one person commented online about the mismatch
‘Terrible decision on your part to think this was going to be ok,’ posted one person.
‘Should have been invitational, otherwise pick some boys for the Under-19 team. I can see what you’re trying to achieve, this is not the way to do it.’
‘No good for mental health on both sides, the boys don’t get everyone celebrating their victory and the girls… don’t get to celebrate their true achievements. Mental health not considered today,’ wrote another person.
But others defended the inclusion of the Sun to encourage male participation, noting the ultimate point of the tournament was to select an all-girls’ Queensland side.
‘This comp isn’t about the shield at the end. You have all lost the view of what it’s for. All the whinging is coming from bad losers,’ one person commented.
‘Let’s judge the decision in 12 months’ time and see how many boys and men’s teams we have – because if you can’t see it, you can’t be it,’ Netball Queensland CEO Catherine Clark said.