Reply To: Revealed: The secret talks that could transform Australian netball

Reply To: Revealed: The secret talks that could transform Australian netball2024-05-15T23:48:21+10:00
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    Fascinating article.

    Not terribly surprising that the Kiwis would like to expand back to a trans tasman competition. The changed landscape of netball over the last ten years has produced a variety of winners and losers. The Jamaican Sunshine Girls I would argue have been the biggest winners. And the Silver Ferns have been the biggest losers.

    The old ANZ Championship was lopsided and competitively unbalanced with the Australian teams having a large advantage over the New Zealand teams. Be that as it may, it was still the highest standard and most competitive netball league in the world, and New Zealand netball had a seat at the table. The flow on benefits for any international program are fairly obvious – having your best players compete week in week out at the very highest level with and against the other best players in the world.

    The arrival of SSN obviously changed that for NZ netball. NZ players now play in a competition a tier or more down in quality from SSN and it’s perhaps not surprising that the Silver Ferns record over the last ten years has shown a fall off. NZ losing its seat at the top table of club netball has also seen an enormous exodus of foreign talent from the country straight to the SSN, further damaging the quality of the sport over there.

    Julie Fitz, Jo Harten, Jamie Lee Price and Sammy Saunders were at the Waikato Bay Of Plenty Magic in the last season of the ANZ Championship in 2016. That’s half the Giants team from last weekends SSN and the coach. Kristiana Manu’a was also part of that team but now plays for the new Melbourne Mavs team. Jhaniele Fowler played five seasons in New Zealand before bolting for the SSN when it commenced. Chelsea Pittman was at the Pulse in 2016, Serena Guthrie at the Mystics and Mwai Kumwenda was at the Tactix. Dame Noelene was the coach of the Steel.

    The arrival of SSN lead to all that talent – and more – being lost to New Zealand netball overnight. Jane Watson was a teammate of Fowler whilst she was in New Zealand and I believe she developed enormously training and playing with and against her as an example. Fowler went over to Perth and now Australia have Courtney Bruce – who developed enormously training and playing with Fowler, was named the best player in the world last year. The Aryang sisters potentially look like world beaters. They currently train with and against Fowler. Meanwhile Watson is still the best NZ defender going around IMO. The lack of exposure to that elite competition is dragging New Zealand netball down.

    New Zealand netball has toiled on manfully, but it ultimately can’t compete in the recruitment stakes. Meanwhile the England Roses or Sunshine Girls are happy to send their best players to the SSN and allow them to benefit from the experience. Jo Harten, Helen Housby, Fran Williams, Ell Cardwell, Jhaniele Fowler, Romelda Aiken, Latty Wilson, Shanice Beckford, Shamera Sterling, Jodie-Ann Ward, Kadie-Ann Dehaney. The Roses and Sunshine Girls have in many ways overtaken the Silver Ferns and the elite level competition their players are exposed to is definitely a big reason in why.

    So it’s not terribly surprising that New Zealand netball seeks a return in many ways to how it used to be. The surprise is in why this would be seriously entertained in any way. The article cites expansion in the AFL and NRL as a hopeful precedent on behalf of broadcaster Fox.

    This is baffling logic. Foxtel bought the rights to SSN in part because of the element of control it gave them over the sport. SSN had already introduced extra time for drawn games, the super shot and rolling substitutions because the previous broadcaster had demanded them. SSN introduced these changes arbitrarily with virtually no consultation with any stakeholders – players, fans, clubs – but simply at the behest of the broadcast rights holder. Foxtel priced this in and have continued in the same vein – when the Collingwood Magpies folded for instance Foxtel insisted their replacement be another Melbourne team.

    Netball Australia financial position has deteriorated significantly since the commencement of SSN. A sport that was already dangerously subservient to its media partners now finds itself on even less of a footing. Foxtel is calling all the shots and has been since they acquired the rights to SSN. The logic of that is pretty simple really – as Foxtel have been calling the shots since they arrived if they’d wanted expansion then netball would already have it.

    The original soccer A League started on Foxtel as an eight team, four game a weekend competition that concluded with a final series. Sound familiar? As the A League tried to expand they received significant pushback from Fox to the point the relationship deteriorated entirely. The A League had to ultimately find a new broadcast partner and the sport is in a dangerously transitory position as a consequence. Just like SSN, the original A League had the Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide markets covered. Expansion offered nothing tangible for Foxtel, indeed quite the opposite. Foxtel viewed it as having to pay more in costs to cover more games and teams, but without any real boost in subscriber numbers to offset the cost. In addition, finding timeslots and trying to sell advertising for those timeslots becomes a losing proposition as the eyeballs just aren’t there.

    Ask a rugby fan about Foxtel and its commitment to expanding a sport they’re broadcasting.

    As I said fascinating article. But if NZ Netball is really relying on Netball Australia to help forge a path going forward then you’d have to be extremely worried. Watch this space.

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