It’s all about the bigger picture for Nexhip

THE Aussie Diamonds and New Zealand Silver Ferns are not the only two teams taking to the court at John Cain Arena in Melbourne tonight.

Before those familiar foes lock horns, the National Men’s teams from both countries will turn out in the final match of their own international series, with the winner taking out overall bragging rights.

According to Aussie skipper Dylan Nexhip, the team is certainly loving the experience of this series and is fully aware of the potential magnitude of tonight’s game.

“It’s an incredible experience for us, and a historic experience in Australia,” Nexhip said. “I don’t think they’ve ever had two international teams be able to do a curtain raiser for the Diamonds and the Ferns, and the fact that it is going to be broadcast across our nation is huge and it is something we are so excited about. We still feel like we are living in this dream and this little bubble, but we are loving every moment and we can’t wait to get out here on Wednesday.”

Nexhip is also well aware of how far men’s netball has come in recent decades.

Like many minority gender athletes in a multitude of sports, male netballers have not had the pathway available to them that the female netballers have had for very long, and it is only recently that those pathways have started to be created.

In Nexhip’s case, after reaching the age of 12 he moved across to footy and tennis, before returning to netball at an older age.

Nexhip, a mid courter, said that the final goal for him and his team mates is to get men’s netball in events like the Commonwealth Games.

“We’d love to be involved in the Commonwealth Games, and I think the people that have viewed our product can see that we have a product that can be put in a space like that,” he said. “We can get a crowd in and we can grow the profile of netball and that’s what we aim to do, and my fairy tale finish would be the 2026 Commonwealth Games. I’m not getting any younger, so if that can happen I would absolutely love that.”

Nexhip gave an outline of what fans who are watching tonight but have never seen men’s netball before can expect from tonight’s clash.

“I think netball is so unique in the fact that you can have a men’s style and a men’s brand that is slightly different to the women’s brand, but both are played at such a high level,” he said. “We play in the air, we’ve got an aerial game and a few more long lines and when the opposition have a seven-foot goal shooter, the natural instinct is for that ball to go in the air.

“So you see a lot of aerial contests, you see hard contests at the ball. I don’t think I’ve ever walked off a court of a netball game feeling ‘oh I feel fresh and ready to go again’. You walk off knowing you put your heart and sole into the game. There’s moments of flash and there’s moments of brilliance, I encourage everyone to come down and form your own opinions for yourself.”

Heading into tonight’s clash, Nexhip says the team are looking to do a little more in attack and looking to lift their turnover conversion.

Then there is the problem of trying to shut down New Zealand star Junior Levi.

Nexhip said there is not a simple solution for stopping someone like Levi.

“For someone like Junior there’s no one solution,” he said. “I think we’ve been working, looking at the vision, thinking about what our Plan A can be, and if that doesn’t work what’s our Plan B and then we can go to Plan C, and I think sometimes you have to shift between, keeping them guessing.”

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