More than 100 players and officials from four provinces competed in Burnaby in the first Canadian national netball tournament since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staged over two days (May 20 and 21) at Burnaby Mountain Secondary School, the tournament featured women’s teams from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. And for the first time since 2009, the national championship had a men’s division with teams from B.C. and Ontario.
Varun Sidhu of Chilliwack is thrilled to be part of the first national men’s netball tournament in Canada. “I’m excited to promote the game. My friends are coming to watch find out more about the sport. Netball is not just a women’s sport.”
“It’s pretty exciting,” said BC men’s team member Kabir Cahill of Vancouver. “It’s non-stop action and a fast game.”
Veteran national player and Quebec women’s team co-coach Marina Leigertwood-Joseph says Burnaby is a great location to host netball. “It’s wonderful to be back and nice to see all of the elite athletes play,” she said. “We have good accommodations in Burnaby. We are fortunate that the facilities are good with two gyms. It’s very central and easy to get to from the hotel.”
The tournament had an international flavour with umpires from Jamaica, Barbados and Australia. “It’s been interesting so far and a different experience compared to what we umpire in Australia,” said Justin Barnes, an international netball umpire awardee from Melbourne. Netball is said to be the most popular women’s team sport in Australia. In Melbourne, they stage televised tournaments in a 12-thousand seat venue. “Its more prominent [in Australia] because it’s promoted and has a lot of investment at the grass-roots level,” added Barnes.
While not at the level of popularity in Australia, netball is growing in B.C. “Burnaby is definitely the hub of netball,” described Maria Hodgins, director of high performance for the BC Netball Association. “It’s played in the high schools and Burnaby hosts national and international competitions. Burnaby has always been very good to work with and is a great host.”
The national championship is the second major netball tournament in Burnaby since the pandemic pause. In November 2022, the city hosted a BC Netball-British Army Tri-Series competition.
B.C. won the tri-series against Ontario