Meet Northern Titans, Yorkshire’s first men’s netball team

Northern Titans in trainingNorthern Titans in training
Northern Titans in training
Northern Titans are set to re-write netball history by becoming the UK’s first men’s team to play in a women’s league.

The club, based in Leeds, was founded in June, 2019 by Declan Kohl and Della Claydon, whose interest in the game sparked at school and later at university.

The pair had participated in mixed netball social leagues in the area and travelled to Manchester to watch the UK’s first men’s team, the London Knights.

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With no all-male sides existing in the region, they decided to form the Northern Titans and became just the second men’s team in the process.

Northern Titans in actionNorthern Titans in action
Northern Titans in action

Co-founder and club president Kohl said: “At our first trial, we had 12 guys on a court in Huddersfield. Since then, we’ve had 30 players in our first year and we’re receiving new interest all the time.”

Members range from 18-year-olds through to men in their 50s and they include players from Zimbabwe, Australia and New Zealand.

Kohl added: “A lot of the guys have played basketball, football or rugby to a high level and the technicality and athleticism required to be good at netball has drawn them to it.

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“Some of them have played for a long time and some haven’t played at all. Lots of them have played in mixed social leagues or have daughters that play at a high level.”

Northern Titans competing against a women's team.Northern Titans competing against a women's team.
Northern Titans competing against a women's team.

Although there are plans to form a national men’s league next year, the International Netball Federation and England Netball do not recognise the men’s game at a competitive level.

In fact, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where England’s women claimed gold in netball, it was the only sport not offered to both sexes.

As a result, the club were especially grateful to receive an invite to play in the local women’s league.

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He said: “A unique opportunity has arisen this year with West Yorkshire Netball and Yorkshire Netball. We were very happy to receive the invite from them and take a very progressive step forward into the league.”

Kohl says their female counterparts have relished the challenge and readily accepted their male opposition.

He said: “Hats have to be tipped to current female teams who have embraced us. As soon as we’re on court, it’s white-line fever and they’re not going to give you an inch, but off the court they’ve been nothing but supportive.”

The club had seven players in the selection process to represent England in the first men’s netball World Cup in Australia this year. Coronavirus put paid to the tournament, but Kohl and the Titans refuse to let that deter them.

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“I think it’s important that no matter what gender you are, sport is for all. The thing that is paramount is wanting to play and there’s no mountain high enough to stop us.”

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