One boy's disappointment could be enough to change netball
FOR four years Rohan Ahmed played the sport he loved alongside his friends until he turned 12 and was forced to stop because of his gender.
Boys can play netball alongside girls until they turn 12, but once they hit their teenage years they can't play again until they are 16 as part of the mixed competition.
But the Rockhampton Netball Association is changing the game by starting the first boy's competition in Central Queensland.
The 13-year-old said he was looking forward to rejoining his teammates after his year break.
"It sucked when I couldn't play,” Rohan said.
Rohan's disappointment was one of the motivations behind the boy's competition, with Rohan's coach Brad Parker being one of the driving forces behind the change.
Now is the time to re-evaluate male involvement in sport, according to Parker, the father of two young girls.
While he'd enjoyed watching women's involvement in AFL and rugby league grow across Australia, he wants to see equality transfer to netball.
For the past few years he has coached Rohan at the Bluebirds Netball Club and said it wasn't fair he had to give up playing at 12.
Parker said it was time for change in netball.
"There is plenty of room for male involvement in playing, managing, umpiring and coaching netball,” Parker said.
"We want to really increase male involvement and make them realise that it's okay for boys and men to be involved in netball,” he said.
"Netball is just as athletic as any sport out there. It's very aerobic, it's very fast, you need good hand-eye coordination, and ball skills are phenomenal, especially at the elite level.”
The competition is set to run from July 24 to September 11 at the RNA netball courts.
Parker hoped to have enough boys register for four teams and said the competition would create an opportunity for the boys of Rockhampton who currently play in the school and club competition to continue the sport they love.
"We want to start creating avenues for boys to come through and continue from 12 years on,” he said.
RNA has a mixed competition in open aged groups available, but between the ages of 12 to 16 the boys have little opportunity to be involved in netball - until now.
"Let's start a foundation and look at bridging (the boys) through to men's netball,” he said.
He said the boy's program would be at an introductory level open to everyone.
"Everyone is welcome, everyone participates and encourages each other and makes them feel like they belong,” Parker said.
"It's a good game.”
The boy's netball program is available for 12-16-year-olds. Contact the RNA to register.