Netball may be a sport dominated by females, but that hasn't stopped more boys joining in.

Netball is the biggest sport being played in Aims Games this year with 122 teams and close to 1500 players taking part - and 29 of those are boys.

Otamatea High School in Maungaturoto, Northland represents more than 10 per cent of that number with three rugby-mad young lads Hamu Henderson, 11, Branden Edwards, 13 and Nathan Harris, 13, in their school's netball team.

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It's the first year of netball for Hamu and Branden, who both say they were influenced to join by others on the team, and the second for Nathan, who is also the captain of the team.

"I joined because my cousin [Devine Henderson ] forced me to," Hamu said.

Branden said he joined because Nathan did, while also being headhunted to play by coach Jodie Bennetto.

The trio all wish they started playing netball earlier because "it's fun" and two of them reckon more boys should play the sport too. Hamu is unsure though because he doesn't want to have to share more court time.

"It gives more opportunities for boys to play other sports," Nathan says.

They each have their favourite positions - Nathan likes centre because it's always on the go, Branden prefers goal defence and Hamu chooses to play wing defence because they like to defend and get intercepts.

All three of the boys play rugby in winter - Nathan is a halfback, Hamu a fullback, halfback or wing because he's "naturally skilled so I can play anywhere" and Branden plays as a halfback or prop or on the wing.

When asked which of the two sports was harder, Branden said netball "because people are running behind you, not straight at you". Not running with the ball was something they had to adapt to, too.


"It's a different sport to rugby," Branden said.

Nathan said he was sometimes on the receiving end of some sibling teasing about playing netball, but it didn't bother him one bit because he enjoys the game. He said there were plenty of skills to be learned in the game, including hand-eye co-ordination and how to "recover from a fall", Nathan joked.

Coach Jodie Bennetto said 2017 was the first for them to enter a mixed team in the Aims Games and she loved what boys add to the game, especially the athleticism.

There was never any hesitation from the boys to join, Bennetto said.

This is the largest number of boys in the competition so far and Jill Weldon, who has been organising the netball portion of Aims Games since its inception, says they are all skilled players who know what they are doing.

She said the growth in the number of boys playing this year which coincided the sport growing in general.

Under official rules, boys can play in the under-13 netball division, with a maximum of three in a team and a maximum of two boys on the court at any time, but not playing positions based in the same third.

Weldon said tournament week had been "absolutely superb" with excellent weather and happy players.