Ready to play ball . . . Looking forward to the netball season are Future Ferns players (from left) Taylor Garmonsway (9), Kate Baskerville (10), Jorja Osborne (10) and Isla Nicholson (10). PHOTO: ELLA STOKES

Many sports players will have their eye on the ball in coming months as the winter sports season kicks into gear. Dunedin winter is under way and the amount of people taking part is on the rise. The Star reporter Ella Stokes caught up with sports representatives to see what the coming season has in store.

Dunedin Netball is excited to have numbers of players increasing as well as having two men’s teams this year.

Dunedin netball operations manager Joyce Andrews said that this year, as well as playing each other, the men’s teams would play the women’s teams in the premier A competition.

“It will be great to have these teams playing each other and [there] will be some really high-level netball,” she said.

These games would be played on Saturday around lunchtime.

Miss Andrews said Dunedin Netball was also excited to welcome back the Taieri Netball Club after an absence of more than 10 years.

Other clubs have also added more teams, which has resulted in an extra grade being added to the senior competition.

Games start this weekend and continue until mid-August.

This season Football South hopes to bridge the gap between local competition and the national league.

Games started last weekend with 86 senior teams, an increase of five teams from last year, and 230 junior teams.

Football South competitions manager Sean Hamill said he was looking forward to seeing some good-quality games.

For the first round this season the premier grade will play Otago and Southland teams, then in the second round the top three teams will go on to play in the eight-team South Island league.

“It’s something clubs have been wanting for a while. This way they get to play in both smaller and bigger competitions,” Mr Hamill said.

Social basketball is proving to be so popular this year the competition is at full capacity.

Basketball Otago has had to turn teams away because of a lack of court space.

Operations manager Greg Brockbank said social basketball on Friday nights involved 32 teams across four competitions.

He said the reason it was so popular was it was fun and easy.

“It’s often people’s second sport. If they play netball or rugby, it’s fun for them to have a fun run on the basketball court on a Friday night.”

Mr Brockbank said the entry cut-off dates were at the end of April and he was unable to comment on overall numbers.

But, based on last year’s numbers, he expected more than 6500 players to register.

Mr Brockbank was looking forward to the season and was using a new draw management system.

The rugby season is under way and there is a small increase in player numbers this season.

Otago Rugby Union community rugby manager Richard Perkins said it was hard to tell exact numbers, as some clubs and schools were still taking registrations.

However, there were 53 teams (52 in 2017) entered across senior metropolitan rugby grades and 118 (114 in 2017) entered in junior metropolitan grades, Mr Perkins said.

“It is positive to see a small increase.”

He said he was looking forward to watching some junior rugby on a Saturday morning.

“It brings you back to why you love rugby – children having fun with their mates, running around and keeping active.”

The premier club final is scheduled for August 4.