Southland men make renewed tilt at nationals

Last updated 05:00 11/09/2013

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After a two-year hiatus, Southland will stage their return to the national men's netball scene today, competing at the New Zealand championships in Porirua.

Coached by former Sting defender Sarah Hamilton, Southland will contest B grade at the four-day tournament.

With the nucleus of the team hailing from St Mary's Men, who secured the Classic Hit Southland Wide League title recently, Southland are in strong form, according to captain Bruce Thirkell.

"But competing against other men's teams will require a completely different style than that of the league because they will be faster, stronger and taller," he said.

"It's a whole new gameplan and we will need to adjust quickly."

Southland have traditionally featured strongly at the nationals, securing a placing in each of their previous campaigns.

"We've always been very competitive in that B grade and we hope to be again.

"Everyone has been working really hard and is looking forward to putting it out there on the court."

Men's netball was starting to cement its place in a female-dominated environment, with elite teams such as the Silver Ferns and ANZ Championship franchises often enlisting their male counterparts as formidable training partners.

"It is becoming more respected and there is a passion out there to drive the men's game forward," Thirkell said.

"Tournaments like the national championships provide a valuable pathway for our players to earn selection in New Zealand men's teams and then compete internationally."

The Invercargill Netball Centre is committed to catering for the male market, launching a Just 4 Boyz tournament for secondary school teams.

Centre administrator Julie Erskine said the one-day tournament, to be staged on Sunday, October 20, was an ideal opportunity to experience the challenge and excitement of netball.

"Guys probably under-estimate netball but it's an excellent way to develop a variety of skills which can even be transferred across other codes, particularly agility, ball control and the stop-start motion of the game," she said.

"Those who have played it in the past are surprised at how challenging it is and really enjoy it. We'd love to see a strong turnout to contest our inaugural tournament."

Erskine said the centre would seek to develop a formal competition for boys' teams early next year if there was enough demand from next month's tournament.

"It would provide an ideal stepping stone to the Southland men's team and then potentially national and international honours."

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- The Southland Times

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