Netball: Bosses look to build on first season's success

By Dana Johannsen

After unprecedented success in the opening year, ANZ Championship organisers are hoping for bigger and better things this year, but kinks from the inaugural season still remain.

The first year of the transtasman league exceeded expectations with nearly six million tuning in to watch television coverage over both countries, and over 200,000 attending the games.

Transtasman Netball League boss Anthony Everard said the goal this season was to surpass those numbers.

"We're really happy with the foundations that we had last year, and we probably exceeded our expectations a wee bit, but we want the ANZ Championship to grow, we want it to become bigger and better every year," he said.

"Going into year two I think everyone is a bit more familiar with the teams and some of the names, so hopefully we'll have bigger TV audiences and better attendances."

One of the new initiatives this year is the "Rivalry Round" in week 13 in which all five games will be transtasman match-ups. After the round the scores of all the New Zealand teams are added up, and likewise for the Australian teams and the country with the highest score wins a trophy.

While the rivalry round is sure to take off, there are still a number of issues unresolved from last season.

The contentious eligibility rules once again came under the spotlight in the preseason, with Everard last week signalling the league office will look to tidy up the criteria for imports.

But one of the big gripes last season was over the use of local umpires to officiate at transtasman matches, which led to confusion among the visiting teams over some of the interpretations.

Some teams had pushed to have one New Zealand and one Australian umpire in charge of transtasman matches, but the league opted to stick with the current arrangement.

"We're very conscious of actually giving this competition a chance to settle and not being too reactive and changing things on the go. We understand that there were some issues there, but nothing significant enough that we felt required any changes."

Everard said the allocation of umpires would be addressed once again at the end of the season.

The ANZ Championship season kicks off this weekend with the Southern Steel taking on the Central Pulse in Invercargill.

* New Northern Mystics recruit Keshia Grant this week won the national javelin title at the New Zealand Athletics Championships. Grant has won the title for the past three years but will now switch her attention to the ANZ Championship.

- NZ Herald

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