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Netball in North Otago will be stronger for fielding a men’s side for the first time this season.

“I think the girls actually took more out of it than what the boys did – it’s going to improve North Otago netball,” Oamaru men’s team captain Steve Ross said.

“It’s just a different element, you can’t just throw a big bomb to the tall shooter because the men will get it – you have to use skilful stuff to get around.”

The Oamaru men’s team played all eight of the North Otago premier women’s teams throughout the season, only losing to Valley Karaka, who went on to win the competition.

Up to 16 players turned out for the side, including five high school boys, and watching the team come to life was “awesome”, Ross said.

“The turnout was way better than what I thought it would be for the first year, getting the rugby players, basketballers, and we got a lot of young boys.”

It was the growth of the younger players that helped finish the season with a strong 57-41 win against South Pacific Titans men’s team, from Dunedin.

“That last game against the men they were awesome, getting big intercepts – they really came from nothing, to be really awesome.”

Many perceived men’s netball to be physical, but Oamaru proved through its aerial game, it was not about the body-on-body contact.

“Even the girls said the boys are less physical, but they’re more skillful.”

Having the first competitive men’s side opened the doors for a second one next season, or the opportunity to play in national mixed netball tournaments, he said.

“I would like to see us get a mixed team, bring those young girls and give them a taste of that proper national stuff, because it’s really good for them.

“I think for it to work, though, it’s got to benefit North Otago netball, and I think it will – the more men that play, the better the competition gets.”

A Cadbury Netball Series involving the Silver Ferns and New Zealand Men, played last week, broke the stigma in the game, and encouraged more athletes to get involved, Ross said.

“I think more men should give it a crack and the ones that did play this season realised it’s not just a game for girls anymore – it cross-codes with other sports.”

He thanked the North Otago Netball committee and president Sonya MacDonald for getting the side together.

“That’s all it takes is people having good ideas like that to bring it forward.”

MacDonald said the committee worked to get the team together for the past few years, and it was “really exciting” to watch it come together.

“We’re hoping it’s the first step forward for years to come and then we can push for more teams.

There were discussions with two Dunedin men’s teams, regarding playing each other on a regular basis next year, and the possibility of competing at South Island Championships.