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Netball makes history at NZ Defence Force awards

Netballer Sheridan Wills has been awarded New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Individual Sportsperson of the Year, marking the first time a male Netballer has earned the honour.

Able Writer Wills has represented New Zealand, NZDF and Navy teams during the past year and also won the 2019 Men’s Nationals title with Waikato Taunui, leading to selection for the New Zealand Men’s squad for the 2020 Netball World Cup in Perth.

Wills said he tried to lead by example both on and off the court and hoped receiving the award would help grow the sport.

“I hope it encourages others to play as the more people we have, the better it is for Netball as a whole,” he said.

“Mixed and Men’s Netball is not a very recognised sport in the Defence Force, so I hope this helps grow the sport.”

Michael Gray V2.jpg

In addition, NZDF civilian Michael Gray (pictured above) was named Sports Coach of the Year, for his work with Netball.

Gray coached the Wellington Air Force Mixed Netball team to an undefeated victory in the Inter-Base Netball Tournament and the Air Force Mixed team who finished runners-up in the Inter-Service Tournament.

He was also NZDF Mixed Netball head coach, coaches Paraparaumu College Netball, is a qualified umpire and a Netball Kapiti umpire coach and mentor.

Gray paid tribute to his players and management team, and said it had been a 12-year push to get Mixed Netball recognised as an official NZDF sport.

“It’s been really great to see from where it started to where it is now, where the players are and how strong Netball is within the NZDF,” he said.

“It’s been an awesome trip to be part of. It’s great to see that Mixed Netball is heading in the right direction.”

Photos used with this story are courtesy of the NZDF