Look Who’s Courting: Is netball the new speed dating?

From thelondonpaper
February 2, 2007

True, netball has always been considered a girl’s sport, and that’s precisely why men are suddenly sprinting to join netball clubs.  The game is fast, fun and high in oestrogen.  Quiet high. With a guaranteed favourable ratio of girls to guys and a gut-busting workout, it’s an original way to meet your match.

“My English colleagues tend to suggest it’s a girl’s game, and I say ‘exactly’,” quips Damian Cato, a 34-year-old mixed-league player from Melbourne with springy, rock-and-roll curls.

Commonwealth Netball UK, which made its debut in 2002 with about 100 men, now counts nearly 400 out of its 2500 players, a trend boosted by Aussies and Kiwis who grew up with the sport. For them, netball is simply a part of cross training – mixing up your cardio activities for maximum calorie-burning potential.  But English men – who now make up 15% of CNUK’s players – are getting in on the act, often as part of corporate initiatives to improve team spirit amongst employees.

“I tell guys they’ve got chicks on tap,” says Diana Carter at CNUK, which hosts games every night of the week for both mixed and women’s teams at Pimlico School always followed by a good cool down at the local pub.  Big parties at the beginning and end of each season means there’s plenty of opportunity to impress without a sweat.

Still think it’s just for girls?  Give it a try.  Join with a friend.  It‘s cheaper and more sociable than the gym, and generally more effective than trying to make eye contact when engaged in downward dog. You get a uniform, too, so there’s no fretting about what to wear.

No excuses if you don’t know how to play. “Lots of men have no clue,” confirms netball manager and umpire Suey Rangi, 32. CNUK operates on a grading system, so even complete newbies can play in the social league non-competitively and learn the right, ahem, moves. But guys shouldn’t join thinking it’s going to be an easy ride, either.  Teams are mixed according to ability and “the women give them a damn good go on the courts,” warns Suey, who has seen several romances bloom amongst the teams.

So how many couplings have resulted off court? “You mean for more than just one night?” jokes Barry Graham, the club’s own “Mr. Netball,” quickly adding that there’s zero sleaze factor among players. On court, it’s all netball.

Gentleman’s honour prevails when it comes to disclosing any slam dunks in the love department, but the guys agree the confines of the court offer a captive-audience-come-true. “You’re in their face most of the game. You’ve got their attention for a good 40 minutes,” says Matt Thom, 28.

In the end, netball may actually prove to be the ultimate form of slow dating. When you know you’re going to see the same person week after week, there’s less pressure to make a spontaneous move and more time to get comfortable as you really get to know them.

The women are most enthusiastic about a rising male presence. Katherine Williamson, 29, a petite yet powerful player, says that mixed games are faster, more exciting, more fun. “And sexy men. Sexy, fit, sweaty men. Sweaty fit thighs.”  And short shorts? “Yeah.”

Commonwealth Netball UK is open to new members – girls and guys. www.commonwealthnetballuk.com

know your positions

The netball field is divided into thirds and has two “shooting circles” at each end. There are seven players on every team, and each wears a bib marking their positions. In a mixed game, one male player must play in each third of the court. If only two guys are on the court, they can either play one in each circle, or one in a circle and the other in the centre third. Advantage: male. Clearly.

Position Name        Abbreviation            Opponent

Goal shooter           GS                           Goal keeper
Goal attack             GA                           Goal defence
Wing attack            WA                          Wing defence
Centre                      C                            Centre
Wing defence         WD                          Wing attack
Goal defence          GD                           Goal Attack
Goal keeper            GK                           Goal shooter