'Challenges a lot of those stigmas' - NZ men's netball team take up battles on and off the court

It’s been a bittersweet month for the New Zealand men's netball team.

They were originally scheduled to play the inaugural Men's and Mixed Netball World Cup in Perth this month before Covid-19 arrived, so instead they’re getting the chance to defend their title in this week's Cadbury Series.

NZ Men’s captain Kruze Tangira said it’s not a bad silver lining.

“To come back and play against the Silver Ferns, NZ A side and the under-21s is a great opportunity for us,” he said.

But arguably, their biggest wins from this week will be away from the televised courts of Palmerston North and instead on schoolyards around the country.

The team has been visiting schools – such as Feilding Intermediate – and been treated like stars.

 “I honestly wish I had this at primary school, it's awesome,” team member Jake Schuster said.

“And seeing the pathways that are coming through is cool. And all these boys here have been really receptive to us, which is great.”

But more than just being receptive, Feilding Intermediate coach Angela Armstrong-Lush said students were engaged.

“For our boys to see them and know they're a NZ team, it just creates a pathway for these boys to know that actually netball can keep going for them,” she said.

“And if we're not promoting it, or creating opportunities for these boys to see where they can head on a pathway, we lose them.”

There's been plenty of lost players over the years - something both Tangira and Schuster are desperate to change.

“When I was growing up I had to deal with a lot of teasing, because I was the only boy in my community that played netball,” Tangira said.

“But just be brave, and just be passionate about where you come from, and understand that whatever you want to do you can do it.

“Seeing the type of athletes we do have, I reckon, challenges a lot of those stigmas and stereotypes, which is what we want,” Schuster added.