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Last week, four young Canberran men travelled to New Zealand to represent Australian in the New Zealand Championships Tour.
From Wednesday 13 September to Friday 15 September, the boys competed against four different teams in the 23 and unders competition at the ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill, New Zealand.
“We did ok,” says Nick Cameron-Neser. “They were bigger than us, it was definitely a lot more physical and tough than it was in our age group. But we did well as a team, and we played very well overall.”
To say that they boys did well is something of an understatement, given that prior to October 2016, the boys had no idea they would end up representing the ACT – let alone their country.
“I pretty much started playing competitively when we began training for the National Championships with ACT, so that started about October last year” he explains.
“It wasn’t totally new to me – my mum is the coach of my sister’s netball team, so I knew how to play, and I’d played a bit with that team. Other than that, I hadn’t had much experience. I’ve been playing AFL for about six or seven years, and I think a lot of the skills from AFL can also be transferred to netball, like reading the play and that sort of stuff.”
It’s an unexpected move for a man of Nick’s age to participate in Netball – a sport that’s well known for being dominated by women – but one that’s paid off for Nick and his teammates.
“Mid-way through the last school year, there was a men’s netball team for high school, and me and a couple of mates decided it would be fun to try out for the team. Pretty much everyone got on the team because there weren’t many people trying out.”
“We went to comp day it there was only four teams. Lyneham, who I play for, we won every game.”
The teams performance at the Australian Men’s and Mixed National Championships on the Gold Coast didn’t go unnoticed.
“The ACT coach had organised the whole thing to try and get people to try out for the ACT team. A couple of us decided that we would try out for the ACT team, we still thought it was a bit of a joke, but once training was underway for the Championships, we got really pumped for it.”
From the competition, four Canberran boys were selected, including Walt Morton, Harper Paniora, Josh Rochow and of course, Nick Cameron-Neser.
“The selection of these four boys for the Australian u17s team shows the depth of talent that we have here in the ACT, especially considering most of the boys hadn’t played netball until 12 months ago,” Coach Jillian Joyce said.
“The ACT definitely was the talk of the tournament particularly when it came to the u17s competition and the fact four of them have been selected to represent their country just goes to show the bright future that men’s netball has in the ACT.”
Nick says the reaction of his peers has been one of support – mostly.
“My mates gave me a bit of shit for it” he laughs. “You get a bit of flack, but mostly everyone’s just surprised. I don’t talk about it that much, but when people find out, they do think it’s pretty cool.”
While it’s encouraging to see young men stepping into netball, it raises the question of why there is hesitation in the first place.
“I think men don’t play because of the stigma around it being a female sport” explains Nick. “Although, it’s actually quite physical and competitive once you get into those state versus state games.”
While the season has wrapped up for this year, Nick insists that he’ll continue to play into the future.
“Hopefully I’ll get into the ACT team,” he says.
“We’ve had a lot of fun. It’s a very team-based sport and it’s very competitive still, even though – yes – it’s a female-dominated sport. It’s still quite a physical game and most people enjoy it one they play it.”
While this season has come to an end, selections for the 2018 ACT squads to compete at the national championships in Sydney will be held in coming months – visit the ACT Men’s Netball Facebook page for details.