Australian netball has become embroiled in an ugly equality row after an all-boys team was verbally abused by spectators for winning a junior state title.
The Queensland Suns Under-17 boys team were subjected to "vulgar" comments after winning the Netball Queensland U18s championship, having been allowed to compete in the competition for the first time this year.
Players from the all-male team were targeted with abuse by members of the crowd after they triumphed 46-12 against the Bond University Bull Sharks in the title decider.
The situation was described as a "farce" by Andrew Voss, an NRL commentator and radio host, after the boys team won the competition with an average winning margin of 29 goals per game.
Tammy Holcroft, the Queensland Suns head coach, told Brisbane newspaper The Courier Mail that his team were made to feel “unwelcome and unsupported”, adding that “our boys just want to play”.
He said: “The abuse ranged from comments made courtside deliberately within earshot of the Suns' contingent, to adults making vulgar comments directly behind the team bench. It’s disappointing that the frustration was directed at the players.”
Netball Queensland stood by its controversial decision to allow the boys to compete against female teams, which fiercely divided opinion. Many insisted it was unfair on the girls' teams, while others praised the organisation for its inclusive approach.
In a statement, the body said it was "extremely disappointed" by the abuse and "won't tolerate vilification or abuse in any form in our game". "We want to make clear that there is a place for everyone in our sport," the statement added. "We stand by the decision to choose inclusion over exclusion.”
In New Zealand, it is not unusual for the national netball side to play its male equivalent. The Silver Ferns have played a New Zealand men’s side three times in the last two years - losing on each occasion - with the first encounter serving as ideal preparation ahead of the team winning the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool.