A four-year ban has been imposed by the Illawarra Netball Association (INA) on a young player following a charge for violently biting a spectator during a game in April. The victim, a mother of a player, was attacked when she intervened to break up an-court brawl which had erupted between players during the game. The bite resulted in a flesh wound and, according to the Illawarra Mercury, left the mother traumatised.

The incident occurred after the duty referee had cancelled the game as a result of uncontrollable tensions and officials of the INA were called to deal with the altercation. President of the INA, Dianne Elvy, declined to comment on the incident, except to say that it was handled internally.

This was not the first count of problematic behaviour for the offending team. Reports indicate that they had previously been excluded from the Southern Suburbs club following similar incidents.

The ongoing involvement and support of families in local sports competitions is placed at risk where images of poor sportsmanship fuelling assaults come to be associated with their brand.  The fact that this incident occurred around netball (not a sport which traditionally carries ‘aggressive’ connotations) highlights the concern that such behavioural and safety issues, can arise in range of competitive contexts.

While the ban has served to publicly denounce violent behaviour in community netball, the incident has also drawn attention to the need for continued monitoring of on-court conduct, and the separation of players and spectators. It may be useful to consider possible implementation of better on-court conflict resolution strategies to reduce the likelihood of repeat altercations.