WP men’s netball on the rise

WP players played a practice match at the weekend in preparation for the national championships that take place at the end of January next year. Seen here is Mario Nelson gathering a pass from Luke Moolman.

For the past eight years, Marina Bothma has been an ambassador for men’s netball and since then the sport has grown in leaps and bounds.

Bothma, 62, started out as a player for WP women’s under-25 and senior teams between 1980 and 1985 and also represented South Western District in 1986, but needed a new challenge in the later years of her involvement with the game.

Men’s netball caught her attention and she hasn’t looked back since. She has been a member of the Western Province Netball Union since 1977 and also served as head selector.

Currently the A team coach of the Western Province men’s netball side, she says the progress in the past seven years is something to be proud of but there is still more that needs to be done to bring the sport into the mainstream.

The Brackenfell resident went from struggling to put together a team to compete in national championships to having two full squads that have been able to give top netball provinces like KZN and Gauteng a run for their money in the national champs.

“I’ve been with the men’s netball for eight years and we used to have one team and one shooter instead of three and we used players in different positions and we would finish second last of like 10 teams when competing at national level.

“In 2015 and 2018 we got silver medals and in 2019 we got gold in the B Division which allowed us to move to the A Division.

“Introducing men’s netball to greater parts of Cape metropole has allowed us to even afford to send two teams for the national championships and that is what we have been able to achieve in the past three years whereas we could only afford to send one before,” said Bothma.

“Years ago there was a lot of stigma around male netball with people questioning the

motive, (with some saying) ‘oh they just want to dress up like females’ and we changed that

and made it known that in the sporting world you play by the rules.

“We have set an example out there and changed the view of a lot of males and the

interest has really been growing,” said Bothma.

Part of what excites her about men’s netball is the versatility of players on court

whereas in the women’s game you have specialists in each position since their game is

more developed.

She says it is easy to move players around and they are able to play different positions.

The physicality of the game, however, does not allow them at WP to have players under

the age of 18 which can play a role in hindering the development of the sport.

“It’s against the rules to be physical but men’s netball is very physical so one has to be

very strong and have a strong mindset because there’s a lot of running and brushing and

we don’t want youngsters to lose interest.”

That said, however, Bothma says the door is never closed to young players wanting to play

the sport.

She would also like to see the sport introduced at school level as she feels that will play

a huge role in making it more popular.

Bothma says soon she will retire from her position in men’s netball but wants to

leave a lasting legacy that will see it challenging bigger sporting codes.

First a netball league will be needed to ensure a bigger pool of players is available which will

make it the competition even stronger.

Like all sports, they were also affected by the Covid-19 regulations that prevented games from going ahead.

The team has now been playing practice matches since getting the green light from Western Province with the implementation of lockdown level 1.

“The Western Province committee organised this tournament over five Saturdays for male players that have been selected for the two WP teams to have match fitness and practice ahead of the games,” said Bothma.

At the weekend, games were played in Kraaifontein. Bothma says she doesn’t really care about the colour of the medal but wants to return home with an award from the national championships in January.