By Ian Harkin
Netball Scoop is celebrating a milestone this year. We’re ten years old. Yes, this website officially came into being in 2011! Those ten years haven’t always been smooth sailing, but we’ve made it this far through the hard work and dedication of a group of volunteers. And we plan to be around for quite a while yet.
Believe it or not, the Netball Scoop story actually goes way back to the start of the century when a group of devoted fans began discussing netball in online forums. One of the websites used was Sportline, a New Zealand site which concentrated on women in sport. It didn’t take long for the owner of Sportline, Sandy Joblin, to realise there was demand for a place completely dedicated to netball, so she started up the Netball Online forum. The site grew steadily in popularity over the coming years, especially when Netball Australia discontinued their own forum in 2005.
By 2011 however, Sandy was looking to step into the background. It was fortuitous that at the same time, Tanya Ahrens from Adelaide was just starting up a news site called Netball Scoop. The pair agreed to merge their sites into one, and that was the decision that led to the formation of the website that we have now. In 2016, after five years of growth, Tanya decided to hand over the reins and a committee of members was put in place to take Netball Scoop forward. The makeup of the committee has changed quite a bit since that time, but its goals haven’t.
Netball Scoop has worked hard to establish itself as the foremost source of netball content for the sport’s fans. Our mission is to keep growing this fanbase by continuing to share the stories and important news pieces which impact the sport, its athletes and greater community. It is our hope that by continuing the discussion, Netball Scoop can grow the global coverage of netball and bring it to a wider audience.
Our group of writers have covered netball from all over the world, from major international tournaments to the three main domestic leagues; Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. We’re proud of the efforts of our new European-based writing team in this year’s Superleague season, and our coverage of that competition, as well as Suncorp Super Netball and the ANZ Premiership, is only set to get better in future. We don’t sit still for long. We are always looking at ways to change things up in order to give our readers what they want.
Perhaps one of Netball Scoop’s finest moments was our coverage of the 2019 World Cup, where we sent a dedicated team to Liverpool. We managed to cover each day’s play in detail, put it all together in a newsletter, and get it all published within a matter of hours, so people could be up to speed ahead of the next day’s play. We’re just eight months away from the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and then the 2023 World Cup in Cape Town will follow not long after. You can be assured we will do our best to again keep everyone updated on these major events.
Our Managing Editor and Senior Feature Writer, Jenny Sinclair, has produced many wonderful articles over the years, but probably the most important was her series on “Fertility and Elite Female Athletes”. She profiled three top international players, Geva Mentor, Nat Medhurst and Sonia Mkoloma and wrote about the way they were dealing with their fertility struggles. This was a key discussion to have on a subject that is often hidden, and an example of how we cover the issues away from the court. This series of articles was very well received and a finalist in the 2020 Sport Australia Media Awards.
Another highlight of the past ten years perhaps surprisingly involved Geva’s mum. We were proud to support the work of the fabulous Yvonne Mentor as she called for donations of netball uniforms and equipment. Yvonne was overwhelmed by the response and was able to disperse large amounts of netball gear to those less fortunate in the African country of Zambia. This story was a great illustration of the strength and generosity of the netball community. After the success of Yvonne’s effort, NS has since run charity drives on other occasions. We are currently accepting donations of uniforms for the netballers of Fiji.
When it comes to our coverage of the big matches, in recent times, we’ve added the invaluable expertise of some great netball minds in our “View From The Bench” series. Sharing her thoughts on a series of games, former Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander has proven to be a popular addition. We’ve also been lucky enough to get the opinions of other prominent coaches Tamsin Greenway, Sam Bird and Kiri Wills, as well as former Australian player Sharon Finnan-White.
Over the ten years of Netball Scoop, undoubtedly one of the biggest improvements made has been the introduction of a terrific group of photographers who provide us with so many memorable images. They really help bring the words to life with their pictures, and we’re highlighting some of their best work in this article. Some of the other things we’ve done during our ten years are; produce an online magazine, create podcasts and host live streaming events.
Our social media platforms have become increasingly popular. We’re fast approaching 40,000 followers on Facebook, while we also have more than 16,000 on Instagram and over 10,000 on Twitter. This is one of the biggest changes since we began in 2011. This large social media presence allows us to keep fans updated with all of the latest netball news, as well as live tweeting games, providing scores and stats, and even having a laugh or two by showing the lighter side of netball. Oh, and yes, the old Netball Scoop forum is still going. It’s definitely much quieter than it used to be in the halcyon days, but there is still an audience there, as was demonstrated by a recent thread on Super Netball signings which ran to almost 1000 posts!
The netball landscape has certainly changed dramatically over the course of Netball Scoop’s life, and this has created a lot of issues for discussion. On the domestic scene, Australian clubs dominated the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship, with Magic in 2012 being the only New Zealand team to win the title. The discrepancy was so great that a controversial conference system was introduced to try to level the playing field, but it made little difference. Firebirds and Swifts played out two classic grand finals in 2015 and 2016 to see out the competition, before Netball Australia and Netball New Zealand went their separate ways.
2017 saw the beginning of a brand new eight team Australian league, Suncorp Super Netball. The professionalism, payment and status of players has never been better than it is now with SSN, but not all of the talk has been positive. There has been much debate about the number of imports in the league, as well as the various rule changes that have combined to give the competition a different look to other leagues. Meanwhile, the six team ANZ Premiership in New Zealand has gone from strength to strength in recent years by simply concentrating on local New Zealand talent. In the United Kingdom, the Vitality Netball Superleague is becoming stronger by the year, with the 2022 season promising to be the best yet.
Internationally, netball is no longer a two-way battle between Australia and New Zealand. England shocked the world with their win on the Gold Coast, but they’ve since proven that was no fluke and loom as a huge chance in every major event. Meanwhile, Jamaica still has the talent to beat anyone, and the introduction of the Quad-Series has seen a huge improvement in South Africa. Netball in Africa generally is on the rise too, with Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe all joining the Proteas in the top eight in Liverpool.
What about men’s and mixed netball? Ten years ago, it was largely ignored. It wasn’t even a blip on the radar. But in recent years it has grown in profile significantly, starting with a series of televised matches between the New Zealand Men and the Silver Ferns. Will the increased exposure and continued growth of men’s and mixed netball eventually help the sport gain a place at the Brisbane Olympics? We’ll have to wait and see. There’s so much in netball’s future to look forward to, and we plan on bringing all the news to you.
On a personal note, I have been here since the start of Netball Scoop. It has been my job to look after the forum for many years now, moderating discussions, providing information, updating match threads and running various tipping and fantasy competitions to entertain members. And I enjoy it. We all enjoy what we do at Netball Scoop, because we have that one thing in common – a love of netball and a wish to share the stories associated with it.
We’re always on the lookout for new members. If you’re interested in joining Netball Scoop as a writer or photographer, or perhaps behind the scenes as an editor or even part of the committee, please get in touch… email@example.com