Politics Is Holding Back Netball in Australia
On the back of international success, huge participation and successful broadcast deals, netball in Australia is thriving. But division at the top threatens to stop the sport from entering into the promised land.
Respected director Anne-Marie Corboy was sacked as a Director of Netball Australia and players advocate Kathryn Harby-Williams was not re-elected to the board, as some state associations reportedly push for more power in Australian netball.
The move has been condemned by the Australian Netball Players Association and other netball identities, who believe the independence and business credibility of the sport is in danger.
In its first year, the new Super Netball League is in turmoil as the game’s biggest stars threaten to strike and legal action looms.
It’s a far cry from the optimism felt by players at the start of the season.
“To capture potential fans and really get the sport rolling, it’s (the new league) a great opportunity for that,” Australian Diamonds star Caitlin Bassett told PickStar’s Off-Field podcast in early 2017.
“I think it’s exciting for the exposure, free-to-air TV with channel 9 is something we’ve been pushing for for years.
“It is going to be giving Australia the best opportunity to develop and amazing pool of athletes to select for Commonwealth Games and World Cup in the next couple of years.
“Bringing in that more professionalism, we’ve been pushing ever since I’ve been playing to become full-time athletes, and for some athletes that’s becoming a reality which is really exciting.”
It is hoped the dispute will not threaten the continued improvement of player packages, where maternity leave, injury leave and pay rises have recently been included.
Rookies are now paid a minimum of $27,000 per annum, and marquee Australian Diamonds earn more than $100,000 including endorsements.
“Girls’ pays have improved, which is fantastic,” Bassett told Off-Field.
“It’s definitely getting there but I remember sitting down with someone the other day, I think he was from a rugby background, and he said ‘so how many of the girls on your team would be on 400K?’ and I was like ‘are you serious?’ That’s probably about 20 years down the track!
“But I guess that’s what we’re pushing towards and hopefully when the girls are paid a lot of money and look back … we look back and look at the work that players like Liz Ellis, Cath Cox and Sharelle McMahon did with the Players Association to be pushing for this type of stuff, and it’s definitely going to be an ongoing battle.”
Despite the sport’s managerial problems, Australia’s netballers are among the most professional and active athletes in the community.