Men’s and Mixed Netball

The Road to Nationals – England Men’s and Mixed Netball

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 (Credit: Clare Green for Matchtight)

The England Men’s and Mixed Netball Nationals is ready and raring to go for the first time – with elite players ready to show the worlds hey mean business.

Increasing visibility for men’s, mixed and boys netball is at the forefront of the minds of those within England Men’s and Mixed Netball Association who hope break down stereotypes.

The competition will bring together four new and existing men’s teams to showcase their talent to the world, in partnership with emerging live stream broadcaster, Sideline TV.

President and founding member Ryan Allan recently sat down with The Netball Post to discuss the growth of men’s and mixed netball and the work being done to make an event like this upcoming nationals fixture possible.

The Rise of the England Men’s and Mixed Netball Association

Formed in 2019, the England Men’s and Mixed Netball Association (EMMNA) has been a labour of love for Ryan – as the organisation developed from just him sitting there opening up social media accounts to a professionally structured entity with its own board and team of passionate volunteers by early 2020.

Mr Allan said he was committed to the continued growth of all forms of netball.

“It is not my full time job, although it takes up more time than any of my other roles,” he said.

“There were men’s players [when I was younger], there were teams out there, but there’s been no association, no plan, no strategy.”

Coming back to the sport at a mature age, like so many before him, he became involved with Knights Netball, one of the few available options at that time for men wanting to play netball beyond social leagues.

“Knights just grew and grew, we got a lot of games against professional teams, and flagged the desire and need for men’s netball to have greater opportunities, not just in social leagues around the country – which there are many of,” he continued.

“We wanted to sit down, form what our mission is, our values, what we wanted to achieve in the first year, three years, five years, ten years.”

Locked Down But Not Out

With the organisation building up momentum, a new Board in place and plans being made for the world cup… England entered lockdown just three months into 2020.

“We thought it was going to be a couple of weeks.. we’ve cracked on, but being unable to play- its been a real challenge,” Mr Allan continued.

Two new teams had formed just before the lockdown, with a third – Giants – formed in partnership with their AFLM namesake during it.

They couldn’t play and couldn’t do trials but they could gage interest, of which Mr Allan said was significant.

Despite the pandemic creating some significant hurdles, the men’s and mixed scene hasn’t failed to attract attention.

“We’ve gone from Knights being one team to three teams being established, to a fourth team being talked about in lockdown to now having eight teams competing in the Men’s and six teams competing in the mixed- just incredible,” he continued.

“A lot of these teams have only had a few weeks to prepare, a lot of them have only been formed two to three weeks out from the tournament, but they’re so keen we’re hoping that they stay on after that.

“It is really exciting we’ve been able to grow that quickly when we haven’t been able to play – a good indication that men’s netball is definitely on the rise here in the UK.”

Nationals

Speaking of Nationals, Mr Allan recalled the origin of this weekend’s Nationals with some amusement.

“I feel like we’ve done everything backwards- normally you’d do a league or you’d start local then move to national and you’d select the best teams and go to national tournament,” he said.

“We looked at the number of players and at the time enough to do four teams and thought to do a quad series.

“So, start with Nationals and use it as a promotional point to get more people interested and launch more teams off the back of that.”

That idea has now evolved into two days of men’s and mixed netball with 180 players hitting the court across 14 teams – not just the first tournament of its kind at this level, but the first to be live-streamed by Sideline TV – a new player on the block when it comes to online broadcasting.

“We wanted to get a really good partner in place for the event and this one is a true partnership. Sideline is a new company and the media partner of the Saracens – they wish to be the go to place for all kinds of netball and available globally, and we’re very lucky this will be the first one streamed. They’ve been in touch with leagues across the world.”

And Sideline are going all out to make this event something special.

“What Sideline have planned is very exciting for our first event – we have two courts and the show court will have multiple camera angles, score, people on commentary, special guests coming to the event.

“We’re really trying to put on something that’s really professional, looks really good and package it so that people really enjoy it and showcases EMMNA netball in this point in time.”

The Exciting Future of Men’s and Mixed Netball

So where to from here?

Nationals will be the perfect opportunity for aspiring high level players to showcase what they’ve got.

Prior to lockdown, a long squad was tentatively selected for the men’s England Netball side, but the opportunity for more names to be added to that list over the weekend and in the weeks leading up to September is very much a possibility.

“That England squad will be doing some form of international touring for next year – there’s a couple of things in the pipeline,” Mr Allan said. We would love for it to be the world cup, but realistically, it’s hard when you’ve got to look at bringing teams in that have to quarantine two weeks before with no one being paid to do this. We’ll look to the countries we can travel freely.

Catch the first ever England Men’s and Mixed Netball Association Nationals from 9am on the 7th and 8th of August, only on Sideline TV.

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