Australia have reasserted their trans-Tasman netball dominance and locked away the Constellation Cup for a sixth straight year with a 58-47 dissection of the Silver Ferns.
Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
Even if you’re not a diehard netball fan, the new National Netball League (NNL) and its big new pay deal would have somehow seeped into your consciousness this week.
If you’re not up to speed on all the latest wheelings and dealings, I’ve put together this handy playlist that you can sing along to, while finding out just what this whole NNL thing is all about.
Money, money, money
Compared to what a footballer makes for sitting on a bench each week, it’s not much, but the landmark pay deal is a huge step in the right direction for netball and women’s sport in general.
Clubs will have a salary cap of $675,000 each to spend on ten players, bringing the average wage for a player up to $67,500, up from the average $22,500 across the now defunct Trans-Tasman Netball League.
The minimum wage for players has more than doubled, from $13,250 to $27,375 – meaning a young up and comer can balance their netball with study without being worried they’re going to starve.
The contracts are also part-time, with the hours between 10am and 4pm protected to allow players to focus on their studies or work at another job if need be.
A Woman’s Worth
In contrast, it was revealed recently that the majority of the players in the new women’s AFL competition will be paid just $5,000 for the eight-week competition.
With the NNL offering a minimum wage that is more than five times that figure, not to mention more than the poultry $25,000 on offer for the marquee players in the women’s AFL, NNL has firmly stamped its intentions to retain the best female sporting talent in the country.
This is an admirable goal and it is great to see codes fighting for the opportunity to sign the many amazing female athletes this country continues to produce.
What I don’t like seeing, on the other hand, is a discussion about competing with other women’s sports for fans and media coverage.
It shouldn’t be a competition between the NNL, the women’s AFL, the WBBL and the W-League to see who gets the bottom three centimetres of the tenth page of the sports section.
It should be a competition between every sport – whether it’s men’s or women’s – to be front and centre of those sports pages. It would be a terrible shame to see one women’s sport get bumped from a newspaper completely because said newspaper has already filled its self-imposed women’s sports quota.
Women in sport are here to stay, the sports are becoming more professional and it’s time for everyone to get on board with that.
In the past, every so often we all got a big shock when an established player left a club to join another.
Nat Medhurst moving from the Queensland Firebirds to the West Coast Fever is a notable example, along with Sharni Layton leaving the Adelaide Thunderbirds for the NSW Swifts. But if rumours are to be believed, we’re heading for the off-season to end all off-seasons.
Of the 14 players named in the Australian Diamonds team for the recent Quad Series and the upcoming Constellation Cup, nine are rumoured to be changing clubs for the 2017 season. Even the most dedicated and statistics-focussed of Fantasy Netball players couldn’t imagine making that many changes to existing line-ups.
Three new teams will enter the competition next year – the Collingwood Magpies, the Sunshine Coast Lightning (backed by the Melbourne Storm) and the as yet unnamed partnership between Netball NSW and the GWS Giants, who have been given the highly imaginative working title of Team NEW.
Currently, all the buzz surrounds the new teams as they set to take the competition by storm (or lightning as the case may be).
A few months back, Netball Australia announced that unlimited imports would be allowed for the new competition to give the new teams a chance to find their feet and bring in some international players to bolster their rosters.
The new teams considered this briefly, then checked out the International Netball Federation’s world rankings website, where they happened to notice that Australia is ranked number one in the world by quite some way. Nice try Netball Australia, but you’ve got to wake up pretty early in the morning to fool Eddie McGuire. At least before 10am anyway.
So off these teams have trod on their merry way, collecting Diamonds like they’re the Real Housewives of Melbourne. Collingwood is rumoured to have at least six current Diamonds on their books, while the other two teams have snapped up a couple each, along with the cream of the imported crop.
You Can’t Hurry Collective Bargaining Agreements
Originally the player contracting window was due to open on the first of August – the day after the last ever ANZ Championship grand final. As the date was pushed back several times, fans grew tired of waiting and started demanding answers.
As we’ve seen, the waiting was worthwhile, as it has meant the players look to be getting the best possible deal and their rights will be protected.
But fan frustration continues, the uncertainty surrounding the rosters of existing franchises for 2017 has affected the flow of membership sales. Fans don’t want to fork out their hard-earned for a team of players they have never heard of.
It’s a difficult situation, but with yesterday’s announcement rosters should begin to take real shape.
Either way, I’d rather step into a boxing ring with Sharni Layton than be answering phones in the membership department of any of the existing five franchises when the team lists start pouring in.
The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning
So what to make of all this? Is it the start of a beautiful new era for the sport or is it the beginning of the end for netball?
Will the new clubs use their money, power and influence to bleed the other teams dry throughout the life of the competition?
There are so many unknowns – particularly as we’re all working from rumours at the moment, but it does seem that better measures will need to be put in place to keep the talent spread more even.
Whether this will happen naturally as players realise that a team of champions does not necessarily make a champion team, or whether some kind of points cap – assigning points to each player based on experience – is instituted to even out the competition in future seasons is yet to be determined.
At this stage, I’m staying cautiously optimistic and looking to the future with interest.