Gisborne boy side-lined from school netball team because he's not a girl

At just 13 years of age, a netball player in Gisborne has been told they can't play in this year's competitive netball league competition.

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The school and team are happy for him to play, but Gisborne Netball says it’s breaking the rules. Source: Fair Go

The reason? The player in question, Braden Sycamore, is a boy, and the team he was selected for is officially for girls.

Braden says he has no other option, as there's no boys' or mixed league in Gisborne during the winter season. He's been part of the team for the last three seasons, and was again selected in this year's trials.

Gisborne Netball spokeswoman Kate Faulks said: "Boys are allowed to play [in girls' teams] up to Year 8 according to Netball New Zealand rulings, but as far as secondary school goes we're not going to start changing rules, that's one thing as a Board we do not do."

Netball New Zealand regulations do state that boys can be discriminated against after the age of 12.

However, Netball New Zealand regulations also state that discrimination against boys over 12 years of age is only acceptable if variations in strength, stamina or physique are relevant.

While Netball New Zealand sets the rules at a national level, community netball rules are administered by the local regional association.

Some regions, such as Nelson, have given dispensations for boys to play over the age of 12. That's what Braden's school, Lytton High School, was hoping for.

His mother, Erin Sycamore, is a teacher there, and she says the school went into bat for Braden a couple of weeks' before the netball season began.

"At that [Gisborne Netball] AGM meeting they were very pro-boys playing so it looked positive, then there was a closed meeting and it was a 'no', which was disappointing," she says.

Braden is reasonably tall and of slight build. He's the first to admit that many girls of his age are stronger than he is and even though he was selected, he only made the B team.

His team's coach, Keasi Williams-Fonohema, who is a player herself, says, "I don't think he has any advantages over us."

Fair Go approached Gisborne Netball to put forward Braden's arguments, including the fact that in the pre-season warm up games, all the opposition, bar one team, had no problem with him being on the court.

Gisborne Netball refused to budge, saying they needed more time to consider any change to the rules, and that a quick decision would be unfair on other teams.

The Board say they will consider a change for next year, and in the meantime are offering Braden chances to referee, do more training and play mixed beach netball.

Braden is accepting his lot, but still wanted Fair Go to run his story, hoping the publicity would help other boys who want to break the mould and play traditionally female sports - because gender equality goes both ways.