Welcome to the Netball Scoop’s Round the World, a new monthly column including netball news, updates and talking points from the wider world of women’s sport.
It’s one of the most exciting times in the netball calendar, as we welcome back the UK’s Netball Super League (NSL), while also counting down until the opening rounds of the ANZ Premiership (ANZP) and Suncorp Super Netball (SSN). If you’re anything like me, you’ll be colour-coding your calendar, scheduling work meetings around early netball games on the other side of the world and blocking out your weekends until early July.
The Return of the Netball Super League
We were treated to around nine hours of pure netball last weekend as the Netball Super League returned to our screens from Nottingham in the Season Opener. Round one didn’t disappoint; we had league debuts, players coming out of retirement, upsets, excitement, the works.
Some of my personal highlights included the return of defensive icon Jo Trip, as well as Chelsea Pitman returning to top flight league netball with London Pulse and Hannah Knights coming out of retirement for Surrey Storm. Can you tell I’m in my 30s and obsessed with successful women getting the most out of their careers?!
As injured players return to teams and import players are bedded in, it will be exciting to see how the league plays out over the course of the season. Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning and Surrey Storm looked strong in round one, but performances from Leeds Rhinos, Strathclyde Sirens and Celtic Dragons showed huge promise. Severn Stars were the biggest talking point of the week, and their new line-up looks set to cause some upsets in 2023.
The only team not to make their return were Wasps Netball, who sadly folded after their parent company went into administration late last year. While some players have found new homes, coach Cat Tuivati and fan-favourite Rachel Dunn are among those who will have to spend the year on the sidelines.
Suncorp Super Netball Preseason
As if the return of the NSL wasn’t enough, we were also treated to some preseason goodness from Super Netball, with four teams facing off in the ‘Bound 4 Bendigo’ competition. The Melbourne Vixens hosted the Giants, Adelaide Thunderbirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning, with all four teams showcasing a host of combinations, testing new combinations and welcoming back some experienced names – most notably defensive stalwart Karla Pretorius who returns to the league after taking time off to have her first child. England netball fans would have been particularly excited to see Eleanor Cardwell make her debut for the Adelaide Thunderbirds, helping her side to a win over the Giants.
West Coast Fever had two hit outs against the Victorian Men’s Open team, while further matches for all teams are scheduled in the near future.
If you need even more netball in your life (who doesn’t), the Team Girls Cup, the first opportunity to see all eight teams take to the court, takes place February 24-26 on the Gold Coast, before the season kicks off proper on March 18.
ANZ Season 2023 Loading
Whilst we’re on the topic of pre-season, the ANZ Premiership have announced the fixtures for the Te Wānanga o Raukawa tournament in Ōtaki from the 17th – 19th of February. Similar to the Team Girls Cup, this will be the first time we get to check out the ANZ Premiership sides before the official start of the season on the 4th of March.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see Jane Watson and Karin Burger back together for the Tactix, Sam Winders making her mark at the Steel and what Joyce Mvula’s flair can bring to the attack end at the Pulse. Laura Malcolm provides another excuse for England fans to tune in to netball in New Zealand, but sadly George Fisher’s season with the Steel has been put to a very early end after a nasty injury sustained in a pre-season game, and we wish her a smooth recovery.
Medhurst returns to Fever
Whilst the time difference between the UK and Australia can be annoying when you’re trying to catch all the games, one of the benefits is that there can often be thrilling netball news to wake up to. When I checked my phone on a grey Tuesday in February to discover that Nat Butler (née Medhurst) had signed as a training for the West Coast Fever for the upcoming season, I knew it was going to be a good day.
Butler was famously dropped from the club in 2018 before moving to the Magpies and announcing her retirement in 2020. She returned to top-flight netball last season, playing in the 2022 Australian Netball Championships – yet another fantastic example of women being able to return to sport after having children, and also the value of experience in an industry that often seems to value youth over everything else.
This feels like a perfect character redemption arc – I wouldn’t be surprised if HBO makes a gritty six-part drama about it.
SPAR Proteas head overseas
With nine members of the current Proteas’ squad playing in overseas leagues, Netball South Africa have taken the opportunity to send an additional 14 members to Australia for just over a week. Training in high performance facilities and taking part in practice matches will help the Proteas in their quest for success at the Netball World Cup. The squad are currently based in Melbourne, under the guidance of recently re-appointed head coach, Norma Plummer.
Netball Family news
One of Trinidad & Tobago’s most popular exports, Sam Wallace, is reportedly tracking well in her recovery after last season’s devastating knee injury. Wallace will reportedly be ready to return to Australia’s SSN during the season. She is currently being replaced by another legend – Jamaican and former Queensland Firebirds goaler Romelda Aiken-George, who took time out of the game for the birth of her first child and is now a training partner with the NSW Swifts.
Congratulations are in order for Australian spearhead Gretel Bueta, who will be sitting this season out on maternity leave. After a devastating miscarriage late last year, Bueta is expecting her second child, and will miss the 2023 Netball World Cup and Australia’s domestic season.
Bienvenue Les Bleus!
Some brilliant news from Europe last month as Netball France announced its first ever national netball squad of 24 athletes, as well as the inaugural national league, Ligue Nationale Pilote. Both the team and the league are mixed-gender, and with two national camps already under their belts, Netball France “are working hard towards an unforgettable debut on the international stage”.
Watch this space, and check out more details here.
Umpire Kits and England Netball ‘Court Short’
It was great to see England Netball Officiating confirm this month offering black skorts and shorts as an option for match officials, in a post responding to an article about why female rugby teams are moving away from white shorts. They also mentioned that, alongside England Netball and The Well, they offer ‘Court Short’ boxes, which are available at all events for players, coaches or officials who need access to period products. Each kit contains various types of sanitary towels, tampons, wipes, and spare underwear.
I loved seeing the announcement that NSL team Loughborough Lightning were partnering with UK clothing retailed Long Tall Sally as their dress sponsor for 2023. Sometimes it can feel that netball sponsorships are a little disjointed, or that the deal is just being done for the money, so a partnership with a brand that has tall women at the core of its business feels very fitting for a top flight netball side.
In the announcement, Long Tall Sally said, “We are proud to be associated with a such a successful Netball Super League side and we are looking forward to supporting the team in helping them achieve their objectives for the new season.”
You can read more about the partnership here.
Singapore, Jamaica leagues return
Netball Singapore’s Deloitte Netball Super League kicked off at the start of the month.
This year, each of the six clubs – Blaze, Fier Orcas, Llabten, Mannas , Sneakers and Swifts – will be joined by a Fijian international. Since 2010, Singapore have brought in international athletes for each of the clubs, an idea that was introduced by former national coach Kate Carpenter. In addition, the Thailand and Brunei national sides will join the competition from Round two.
It’s the 22nd season of the league, which formed in 2000.
Meanwhile, Jamaica are gearing up for the return of their Elite League after a three-year hiatus. There are over 20 athletes across the competition, plus those plying their trade overseas, who will form the Netball World Cup squad. The league is scheduled to begin in the middle of March.
Netball World Cup Fixture Announced
If international leagues kicking off isn’t enough netball planning for you, the match schedule for the 2023 Netball World Cup was announced earlier this month. You can see the full fixture list here and there’s a handy table at the bottom of the page for anyone who is easily confused (like me).
Going into the Netball World Cup with the energy of the 2019 Zimbabwe side, I’m excited to see Wales take on South Africa, the match up between Tonga and Fiji, and of course, the biggest clash in sporting history, England vs Scotland.
World Netball Addresses Coaching Advisory Panel Diversity
After the announcement of the new Coaching Advisory Panel from World Netball, many were quick to call out the lack of diversity on the panel. World Netball have addressed the issue, stating that the application process was reopened with the aim of increasing a more diverse pool of applicants, but this was unsuccessful.
World Netball have said that they have, “been in contact with all Regions who do not have representation on CAP. Each Board member was asked to provide a link person from their Region, whom CAP will now aim to engage with as part of a working group. This group will connect and provide a more diverse voice to the table – in the hope in the next cycle these individuals feel they have the confidence and skills to apply.”
You can read the full statement here.
We know that diversity in netball, especially in higher-level posts, is an issue, and hopefully by those in the community continuing to call out issues like this, the sport can move towards a more inclusive future.
Women’s Sport Trust
Great news from the Women’s Sports Trust in the UK, which found that the average viewing time per person for women’s sport on TV in the UK increased year-on-year by 131% in 2022. The stats are fairly generalised, and further stats are quite football (soccer) heavy, but it’s positive to see that interest and viewership is on the up for women’s sport in the UK.
Alarmingly though, according to the report, “Despite the progress that has been made in visibility, women’s sport still accounts for less than a seventh of sports coverage hours on key UK TV channels, while the proportion of coverage devoted to women’s sport by TV sports news and the print media was even lower in 2022.”
You can see the full report here.
Hope you enjoyed the round up! If there’s any news you want to see included next month, you can find me here → @ionastjo.