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England netballers join world’s first professional league
EMILY GARNHAM
EXPRESS.CO.UK
Tue, Feb 5, 2008

FIVE of England’s squad players have accepted invitations to join the world’s first professional netball league.

The girls will be playing alongside some of the world’s best players in the new weekly competition, the ANZ Championship, which will be contested in Australia and New Zealand in April.

All five players selected took part in the World Netball Championships in New Zealand last year and will be joining their new squads for pre-season training in a few weeks.

England Netball’s Director Nigel Holl paid tribute to the strides the England squad had made both nationally and on the international stage.

He added: “To be invited to take part in the ANZ Championship is a huge compliment to these English players and recognises the progress that the English game has made.”

He also spoke of the “huge challenge” the five will now face but hopes their new skills will benefit English netball in future.

“When they return with advanced skills, training ideas and having experienced another level of domestic competition week in week out, their input will be crucial to the national squad’s progress in the months to come,” he added.

England vice captain and Maverick’s player Karen Atkinson will be based in Perth with WEST COAST FEVER with teammate Ama Agbeze. Agbeze has already started her pre-season training, while Atkinson will join her after the Superleague is over.

Meanwhile Geva Mentor will be joining the ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS where she will line up alongside the likes of Australian defensive World Championships gold medallist Mo’onia Gerrard. Team Bath’s Tamsin Greenway has been invited to play for QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS.

Sonia Mkoloma, England’s inspirational defender, will be the only English player based in New Zealand when she joins the PULSE squad. In the first match of the competition on April 5, Pulse will host the Melbourne Vixens, when Mkoloma will face Australian star Sharelle McMahon, widely acclaimed as the world’s best shooter.

The new league has stirred the netball world and paved the way for professional netball in the UK. Nigel Holl is confident the professional era now dawning in the Southern Hemisphere and the change will happen sooner rather than later.

“We hope the Netball Superleague will develop into a semi-professional league, in the near future,” he said.

“Many of our international athletes have already had to fore-go employment opportunities to train and play.”

HOW IT WORKS

The ANZ Championship is a Trans-Tasman league featuring five teams from Australia and five from New Zealand, playing each other home and away in a season spanning from April to June.

A total of 69 matches will be played over 17 weeks with each team playing 13 matches.

Each Australian team will play each of the Australian teams twice and the New Zealand teams once, while the New Zealand teams will play their New Zealand counterparts twice and each of the Australian teams once.

The forerunners will play two semi finals, a preliminary final and a grand final.

AUSTRALIAN TEAMS: Queensland Firebirds, New South Wales Swifts, Adelaide Thunderbirds, Melbourne Vixens, West Coast Fever

NEW ZEALAND TEAMS: Northern Mystics, Waikato/ BoP Magic, Central Pulse, Canterbury Tactix, Southern Steel