Silver Ferns v Aotearoa Men: COVID-19 lockdown casts long shadow over 'Battle of Sexes' series

Another untimely COVID-19 outbreak is beginning to feel like deja vu for the Silver Ferns.

Next week's series against Aotearoa Men is shrouded with uncertainty, with the three matches already forced to relocate from Hamilton to Wellington.

Now, Netball NZ is stepping in to help ensure their opponents still locked down can take part.

The series is one of the most highly anticipated fixtures on the men's calendar, so when midcourter Dallas Harema received the call-up to play against the Ferns, he jumped at the opportunity.

"My inner competitor kicked in at that point," he says. "I'm definitely at the older end, at that fossil end of my netball career."

At 41 years young, he's been out of the game for almost a decade, but the only thing preventing him from taking the court with his teammates is the Auckland/Waikato lockdown boundary.

Six of them still await travel exemptions in time for the first game on Sunday, but have already been denied once before. 

"It would definitely be a blow for sure," says Harema. "They chose this team to represent Aotearoa Men."

Administrators have just five days to find suitable replacements, just in case.

"Our contingency plan wasn't our first choice, but we are very confident in the ability of many many players on the men's netball scene," says NZ Men's & Mixed Association Junior Tan.

The series is not only an important fixture for the men, whose calendar has been dramatically affected by COVID-19. They're also providing their female counterparts with much-needed game-time.

"Obviously, we've seen in the past that the Silver Ferns can benefit from playing the men," says Tan. "They won the world series on the back of playing the last series and looking towards Commonwealth Games, we're going to add value to the women's game."

But for now, they're just hoping they'll have a full-strength team there to take them on.