The Roar
The Roar


Maybe no one will notice if netball slowly becomes basketball

Isn't one of the best things about netball that it is different to basketball?
23rd March, 2016
1598 Reads

Hello Roarers and welcome back to another year of netball and of New Zealanders getting upset at me for pointing out that their teams aren’t very good.

The 2016 season has started with a bang with pre-season tournaments, known as the ‘Summer Shootout’, held concurrently in Sydney and Auckland over the weekend. Never mind that the tournaments took place in mid-March. We’re sticking with this summer thing guys. It’s alliteration.

It was decided that some “innovative” and “exciting” new rules were going to be trialled for the big Sunday sessions of the two tournaments. These were of course devised by Trans-Tasman Netball League (TTNL) general manager Andy Crook, who regular readers will remember from his spaghetti-throwing strategy that decided the 2015 TTNL finals system.

Not content with fiddling around with the draw any longer, Crook decided to fiddle around with the very rules of the game, implementing a three-point scoring zone, centre passes going to the team that didn’t score last and rolling substitutions.

You may be wondering, ‘Isn’t this quite a lot like an existing sport called basketball?’. And the answer is ‘Yes, yes it is’.

But really, who could blame him? I mean, we all know how hugely popular basketball is in Australia. I mean, literally tens of people flock to the NBL each week. And when you throw women’s sport into the mix, I mean just look at the media coverage the WNBL gets! You have to look pretty hard, like ten pages back into the sport section, right down in the bottom corner, but it’s definitely there.

In the lead-up to the tournament, we finally got some interesting controversy, with West Coast Fever and Australian Diamonds player Natalie Medhurst using her Facebook fan page to suggest that maybe netball doesn’t need to implement basketball rules in order to succeed. Maybe they could just consider improving the fan experience at the matches and emulating basketball by engaging and exciting the crowd in the way basketball does instead?

What Natalie failed to understand is that that method involves a lot of hard work. You have to find interesting MCs, rather than just a couple of morons in baseball caps that chant “Let’s go Swifts, let’s go!” a couple of thousand times a match. You have to find people who know more than five songs to program a music playlist. You have to figure out what entertains people who are more than eight years old. You know what’s a lot easier? Buying a few extra stickers for the court and putting in a three-point zone.

Perhaps Natalie realised the error of her ways, or perhaps the powers that be reminded her that netballers must not have any contrary opinions, but either way, the post was removed the following day.


So, on to the actual tournaments. They each went for three days, with the first two days made up of meaningless games using the official rules of netball. What a yawn-fest. Clearly not what netball fans want to see at all. The final day invoked the exciting experimental rules and Fox Sports recognised this desire of all netball fans to watch this trainwreck unfolding live by broadcasting the whole, silly thing.

First up came the tournament in Auckland, where the innovations worked a treat. Instead of creating a bottle neck under the goal ring, there was a much more exciting bottle neck created at the edge of the circle. And if you like to watch people miss goals, boy were you in for a treat!

Of course, the Kiwi commentators were delighted to see two New Zealand teams – the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and the Northern Mystics, in the final, which the Mystics emerged victorious from. They are currently investigating ways to cancel the regular season and have that stand as official result of the 2016 TTNL.

Over in Sydney, things were unfortunately much less silly. Shooters who caught the ball close to the ring just took the one point shot, instead of forcing a ridiculous pass into the three point zone to a player who was being double defended.

Fortunately, West Coast Fever goal attack Kate Beveridge and Melbourne Vixens goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld both upheld the true spirit of the competition by winning close games with three point shots right at the death. Teague-Neeld managed hers in the final, which meant the Vixens took out the Sydney competition.

The whole weekend was very useful in identifying two teams that will definitely not win the 2016 TTNL and rewarding them with a meaningless trophy to make them feel better about it. So it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

The season proper starts on April 1, with the Northern Mystics taking on the Southern Steel in a netball match, much to the disappointment of Andy Crook, who will be busy devising a shot clock and the possibility of all players being able to shoot for goal for next year’s pre-season tournament