By Jordan Witte & Claire Macuz
One from one. History made.
By suiting up for the Metro Jets Division 6 squad last Tuesday night, Tristan Comans became the first ever male to play in Parkville’s Premier Division.
Far from allowing the unexpected minor celebrity status to go to his head, the 13-year-old goal defense starred in a crucial win for the Division 6 side, which felled Craigieburn 29-24 in a high-scoring affair.
Recording five interceptions and out-rebounding women old enough to be his mother, Comans played superbly in his first hit out for Metro, earning praise from the coaching staff and his teammates.
His history as a netballer, however, stretches back much further than last Tuesday night.
“I started playing when I was about four or five,” Comans said after his debut. “Mum would put me on the court at Net Set Go, and she’d give me like, five bucks to play, because I never wanted to play.”
“Now, she yells at me because I don’t want to stop playing.”
For most young men, netball is something their girlfriends or sisters do, and, as it’s heard to be described, “chick basketball”.
“I’ve actually quit basketball, and I’ve quit footy, to play netball,” Comans said.
Football training clashes with Friday night’s netball training sessions in the oven-like indoor conditions at the State Netball Hockey Centre, where if you don’t count parents and three coaches, Comans is the only male.
“I just love the game,” Comans said, with a smile creeping across his face. “I just love everything about it. The fitness aspect, everyone’s friendship, everyone’s so close.”
The story of how Comans came to find himself on the Division 6 team involves those oven-hot netball courts at Parkville, where he graduated from hurling a basketball at a too-small netball ring by himself to filling in during drills in pre-season.
He knows the rules, so he umpired match-play sessions at training. He watched as older sister Paige, still tied to Craigieburn at U17 level, but representing Metro at U15 level, quietly impressed the coaching staff with her game sense and passing ability.
Then, on a stifling Friday night a couple of weeks into the season, while Comans was mucking around with his sister and few of her mates, the call finally came.
Metro head coach Ferruccio Servello approached Division 6 coach Claire Macuz and U17 coach Jordan Witte, wanting to point out the 13-year-old, who had just sailed in to out-rebound a missed shot.
In characteristic style, Servello merely pointed a finger halfway in the direction of Comans, with a sly grin on his face, and asked what the two coaches thought.
Macuz needed a goal defense, with her squad slightly short on height. She’d been using Sarah Flanagan, a Monday night regular and a warrior of a goal defense, and chopping and changing her team nearly every quarter to try and cover the defensive posts.
Now, watching Comans leap for another rebound, she quickly agreed to Servello’s idea, which was to get Comans involved in the Division 6 squad as quickly as possible.
Witte was sent to ask Comans, who might as well have been a Christmas tree on December 25th, such was the speed with which his face lit up, if he would like to become a permanent addition to the squad.
“Yeah, it was awesome. That was awesome,” Comans recalled.
The necessary clearances were made. Parkville, and indeed the whole state of Victoria, had recently made sweeping changes to the eligibility ages of young males, raising it from 12 to 14.
Where Comans was previously ineligible, he was now cleared for takeoff.
He would have to wait, as Division 6 had a bye the next week. So he trained, this time as a fully-fledged member of the club, playing on Division 4 goal shooter Heidi Macuz, who said he “used his body well” and “had a big future”.
Comans freely admitted to nerves before the game, the result of a combination of playing against his old side and becoming the first male to play in an all-female competition (an experience he called “a privilege”).
He started fairly simply, plucking a rebound down which lead to a Scarlett Padden goal. Georgia Tymms stuck a hand in and caused a deflection, which Comans got to before anybody else.
Metro would lead the whole way. A monster night from Padden, combined with the resurgent Tymms in centre and strong contributions from Tanya Beaumont, Melissa Jones and Morelle Bull secured the five-goal victory.
Comans had five interceptions, using his spring-heeled leap to cut off Craigieburn attacks.
“I thought it was OK,” he said of his own game. “I thought my fitness was OK, and I got some intercepts, but I definitely need to work on my passing.”
His family was thrilled, posting several congratulatory messages on his Instagram. Paige demanded to know who his coach was, and if he’d be playing goal defense when Metro plays Moonee Valley, who the Comans family also has a previous association with. (Paige plays goal attack in Division 6 for Moonee Valley.)
“I thought it was an excellent debut,” said Macuz. “He has good body positioning, he uses his strength well, and he reads the play exceptionally well.”
“He’s also fit in with the girls like he’s been here forever. You couldn’t ask for a better addition to the team in a debut.”
Comans left Parkville on Tuesday night with five interceptions, but also – more importantly – with the win for his new team, and the knowledge that he belongs.
He’ll get the chance to announce that to another opponent in tonight’s match against Sunshine Heights.
You won’t want to miss it.