Tuesday, September 06, 2005

How does a man survive in a woman's world - mixed netball

Netball has become something of an unlikely passion for me in the last few years. I really only started playing about 4 years ago, when I finally convinced myself that it was ok for a guy to play. Since then, the game has ascended into my top three sports, taking its rightful place next to basketball and topless darts. I am still playing three games of netball a week. I am considering reducing this to two games a week based on consultation with friends and loved ones, who have explained to me that three games a week officially makes me a "netball nutter".

While my entusiasm is high, a few weeks ago I was reminded of the harsh realities of social sport. The obvious first reality is that despite what you yourself think, it is safest to abide by the motto that "winning isn't everything". Despite my competitive nature, I think I handle this one pretty well. Unfortunately, another nugget of wisdom worth remembering is that line your Mum used to tell you: "its all fun and games until someone gets hurt". No where does this old adage ring more true than on the mixed netball court.

Let me just say up front, I did not intend this to happen. She was defending me very closely - and I mean very closely. If Aff was watching, I suspect she may have had a few words to say about this. I, however, was in my classic whiteline fever mode, with eyes only for the ball, and the task at hand - really! It was the fourth quarter, and we had what turned out to be a substantial lead (but we didn't know this because there is no visible score board). Not being sure of the score meant we had to play with the assumption that it was close. I was playing in my usual position, Goal Attack (GA), and the ball was flying towards me. I was in a slightly awkward position, with my body slightly turned away from the ball. As a result, when I jumped up to catch the oncoming ball, I also twisted slightly to my left. It was at this point that I felt the sickening thud against my left elbow.

I instantly stopped. The ball went somewhere, but I have no idea where. I looked to my left, and there was my close defending female opponent on the floor, holding the left side of her jaw, and in tears. I felt sick. I went over to her, but she was beyond consoling. It wasn't long before the rest of her team came rushing over, many a death stare was thrown my way. Finally, their centre, a male, decided to voice his disapproval by saying "what's wrong with you mate?".

This was hard to cop. I had no idea where she was, and certainly didn't think she was so close that a slight spin (and I mean slight) would take out her left jaw. I told the guy I didn't mean it, but this didn't seem to settle people down. I realised I was powerless to make this right, so walked away. I went up later to see if she was ok, and as it turned out, she had no serious injury, but did incur a blood lip.

This incident reminded me that mixed netball is definitely a female ruled world. I don't mean this in any derogatory way, but simply that the etiquette of the game is clearly stacked against a largish male like me. When a male player is defending me, I always feel much more relaxed. An accidental contact is unlikely to cause a stir. When a female player is defending me however, particularly when she is up close and personal, I don't even know where I can safely put my hands, let alone how I can move around her without causing any sort of contact. And you can always pick the experienced female netballer. If the pleated skirt with badges sewn all over it isn't indicative enough, then her ability to ensure any move I make is likely to have me arrested certainly is.

For those males unfamiliar to netball, I am sure this sounds like the most frustrating sport on Earth. I must admit, it took me about half a season before I came around to accepting it. I think what was crucial to my acceptance was an understanding that knowledge of the rules and etiquette of the game are as important as the ball skills themselves. Once you work out what you can and can't do, you can start to work out how to do things. Still, even a sport as anal as netball cannot protect a player from freak elbows to the jaw, but they certainly give the victim's team plenty of ammunition to unload on the guy that accidentally did it.


Post a Comment

<< Home