Shiplake Old Viking, Jacob Kirby (20S), has been selected for the England U25s men's netball team which will be heading to Singapore in December to compete in a groundbreaking international series.
Jacob, who was the first man to start training with Henley Hawks Netball almost a year ago, was spotted at the recent England Men's and Mixed Netball Association (EMMNA) National Championships and was invited to take part in the selection process for the squad. After two demanding days of trialling, he's been awarded a spot in the 14-strong team that will be competing in the Men's Nations Netball Series in December where the England team will face world-leading Australia and New Zealand, amongst others, during the week-long competition.
Jacob, who left Shiplake in 2020, said: "It's such an honour to be representing England on the international stage and this competition is going to be a real showcase for men's netball. I've not been playing the sport for that long so to have the opportunity to train with the best in the country and then compete against some of the best in the world is just incredible."
Jacob started playing netball after being part of the Shiplake College rowing programme where he coxed the school's 1st VIII at Henley Royal Regatta and also competed with the GB Rowing junior squad. However, after lockdown led to the cancellation of all the events in his final year at school, he took up cycling to keep fit before taking to court in a number of mixed netball tournaments at Henley Hawks Netball. From here, he was invited to join a number of training sessions before the club launched their men's netball squad in April this year. Henley Hawks secured a top-ten finish at the National Championships in August and Kirby's shooting prowess attracted the attention of the England coaches who invited him to trial for the squad.
"Netball is such a great sport," he says. "It's fast, explosive, tactical and skilful and it's great to see that men's, and mixed, netball is growing at such speed around the world. I'd like to thank everyone who's been a part of my netball journey so far, particularly coaches Lou Porter, Lucy French and Jessie Cherrill and of course, Tamryn Settle who put in so much time and effort to get the Henley men's squad to National Championships plus all the club's players, male and female, who've been a huge part of the journey in training, and at matches and have supported us all the way. I can't wait to be part of this historic men's international netball series and I hope this is just the start of an exciting time for men's netball."
Ryan Allan, President of the England Men's and Mixed Netball Association (EMMNA) said: "As we prepare to send this exciting young team to compete on the global stage, it's worth reflecting that not long ago, this was just a dream for many. This opportunity underscores the incredible progress we've made in the growth of our sport and the opportunities now within reach for our talented athletes."
EMMNA are actively seeking sponsors for this tour as currently, it is being fully funded by the players themselves. If you would like to know more about supporting the squad on their historic journey, please email [email protected] or donate via www.englandmmna.com.