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Ian Harkin
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2007 was the final year of the Commonwealth Bank Trophy. Before the season began, it was announced that a new competition would begin in 2008, featuring teams from both Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian team toured England during the early rounds of the 2007 CBT, meaning some teams (especially Swifts) were badly affected. As a result, Swifts lost two games they would almost certainly have won at full strength. They finished the regular season two wins behind Phoenix, but Phoenix were denied the right to host finals matches as Netball Australia made the decision to hold the entire finals series in Sydney over just one weekend.


27 Feb, 2007

SYDNEY – Australia’s netball community has given a mixed and cautious reaction to the prospect of a professional trans-Tasman competition. A new professional league including five teams each from Australia and New Zealand, and bankrolled by pay television, is expected to replace the domestic Commonwealth Bank competition from next year.

Netball Australia has yet to confirm the new format but is expected to make an announcement in mid-March after a meeting with union officials next week. And while the new league would see elite players – who earn between about $2000 and $5000 a year – finally reaping financial rewards, there has been a mixed reaction from Australia’s netball community.

Former Australian captain and current Queensland Firebirds coach Vicky Wilson warns it has implications for the depth of talent developed at elite level. “When you’ve got eight teams reduced to five that’s 30 players less being exposed on the international stage,” she said. “What will it mean for those teams and coaches who will miss out? I think they’ll be having a lot of sleepless nights.”

Reports suggest that the Sydney Swifts, Queensland Firebirds, Adelaide Thunderbirds, Melbourne Phoenix and Perth Orioles are the favoured franchises, leaving out the AIS Canberra Darters, the Melbourne Kestrels and Hunter Jaegars. Kestrels coach Jane Searle said Netball Victoria would push for two Victorian teams in the competition, and if not successful, the best players from the Phoenix and Kelstrels would be selected.

Meanwhile, Netball New South Wales said it would also fight to secure places for both its teams, the Swifts and Jaegers. “I’m always open to new ideas and ways to improve netball and I think it’s a good idea, but we have to see what the underpinning program is,” Searle said.

For long-time Australian player and Swifts shooter Catherine Cox, a trans-Tasman league is well overdue. She said she was confident Netball Australia would find an adequate structure for the teams that miss out. “It’s about time, Australia and New Zealand have the best domestic competitions in the world,” Cox said. “The opportunity to play with the best players in the world is a step forward. We have always known that we have had the products, it’s just been about finding the right way to put it in the right direction.”

Cox also dismissed criticism that the league would widen the existing gulf between the trans-Tasman rivals – New Zealand ranked No 1 and Australia No 2 in the world – and other netball nations.

Australian Netball Players’ Association spokesman John-Paul Blandthorn said a number of issues would need to be considered, including sponsorship and monetary aspects, before the plan was given the green light. “I think Netball Australia has the right idea but we need to be mindful that the structure put in place is viable,” Blandthorn said.

Reports suggest the competition and broadcasting deal will be worth A$1.5 million a year to Netball New Zealand and Netball Australia with guaranteed primetime television slots until 2010.


March 13, 2007

Australian netball will get an A-League style overhaul next year when a new competition with 10 teams from Australia and New Zealand is launched. Australian captain Liz Ellis said yesterday the new Tasman Trophy Netball League could attract star players from all over the world.

The new event will run from April to July, with five teams from each country, and will be broadcast on pay television. It will replace Australia’s Commonwealth Bank Trophy and NZ’s National Bank Cup. Netball Australia expects to announce the teams that will make up the competition by mid-May.

Netball Australia chief executive Kate Palmer said the preferred model was for one team each from NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.

Goal keeper Ellis said she didn’t think the trans-Tasman competition would lengthen the gap between those two nations and the rest of the world and welcomed the possibility of players from other countries participating in the tournament. “I don’t think it’s being too fantastical to say that this may become the NBA of netball, in that this league is the league that players across the world aspire to play in,” Ellis said.

Officials from Netball NSW and Netball Victoria welcomed the new competition, while expressing disappointment they would each have only one representative side. Both bodies felt their large pool of players merited a second team.

Palmer said the remuneration for players would be “much higher” than it is now and that full-time professionalism for the sport could be achieved within three years. Ellis, 34, said the competition could prompt her to prolong her career rather than retire if Australia wins the world title in NZ this year.

Netball Victoria president Jenny Sanchez said while Melbourne Victory had enjoyed great success in the soccer A-League as a new entity, she had an open mind about whether Victoria would enter one of two existing teams or a new franchise.