Game on - politicians debate male, mixed netball teams

By Talisa Kupenga

Some male politicians are keen to play netball at parliament but there's no official male or mixed team. 

It's the same scenario at the Commonwealth Games, where netball is the only sport with no male participants, a fact which many at the beehive believe needs to change.

National’s Alf Ngaro is keen to be part of a parliamentary netball team.

"We have parliamentary rugby, why shouldn't we have parliamentary netball where it can be a mixed team and we get involved?"

Other male MPs want to join in too, already placing dibs on their preferred positions.

National’s Nuk Korako says he’d best serve as centre, as did Mark Mitchell.

But Mitchell quickly changed his choice to goal shoot when he became aware that Ngaro was eyeing the same position.

“I’m definitely not that good at kicking goals but I’d definitely have a go at shooting goals,” Mitchell says.

National’s Todd Muller says he’d be a natural goal defence and promptly disclosed his technique.

“I’d be flaying my arms around protecting the goal.”

While New Zealand First’s Clayton Mitchell, whose first preference is to play centre, says he’d “probably be a good defender”.

Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard prefers a social game as does Labour’s Rino Tirikatene.  Youth Minister Peeni Henare cut straight to “when and where?” when asked if he would play.

But parliament's official netball team captain, National’s Louise Upston, says a mixed team was declined, citing injury as a key concern.

“When I was defending against a 6’4” police officer it was never going to go well.”

But Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey says that doesn’t worry him, "I've seen women playing women and the injuries are huge so I have no fears about that."

However, team member and Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri understands the concerns.

"There are some people that are concerned playing against men in netball but again where it starts is you've got to find teams that will play you in a mixed competition.” 

The International Netball Federation reaffirmed earlier this year that its focus would be primarily on professional female players, despite calls from the male netball community for it to reconsider.

But Sports Minister Grant Robertson, who now prefers to play goal defence, supports male or mixed teams at parliament and “would love to see” the same at Commonwealth Games level.

“Netball is a great sport, it is played by a lot of different people.  I’ve played for the past 10-15-years, always on mixed teams and they’ve always been great.”

He also says it would be great if parliament exemplified equality in the sport and led by example.

Te Kāea understands parliament’s official netball team has always been female and has been running for about 20 years, but male politicians sometimes play unofficially in electorate games.

Whaitiri, as well as National’s Jo Hayes and NZ First Jenny Marcroft, supports a mixed team at parliament.

However, if the men want a male-only team it is up to them to organise it.