Netball: Hawke's Bay is Central to change

By Shane Hurndell

In her netball playing days, Heidi Oliver had the goal defence bib.

Her chairwoman role with the new Hawke's Bay Netball Centre inaugural board, which replaces the old Eastern region board as the governing body for the code in the province from tomorrow, requires a similar approach.

"I have to keep everyone calm and save things," Oliver said with a laugh.

Considering the ex-Cantab has only been in the Bay since 2003, she will also bring a certain amount of neutrality to the role.

"I can bring a fresh perspective and a more effective way of doing things," the former Hastings High School Old Girls player said.

"Netball people have told us change should happen and to make it happen. It's been exciting working with the working party since May and I must thank everyone who has been part of the process ... their support has been fantastic," said the mother of two, who works as an associate at Gifford Devine Barristers and Solicitors.

A product of Rangi Ruru Girls' School in Christchurch, Oliver, who was the Hastings Netball Centre chairwoman since 2010, is part of a seven-strong board.

Portfolios have yet to be appointed but these will include finance, property, personnel and game.

The new board is part of Netball New Zealand's restructuring which involved dividing the country up into five zones. One of those zones is Central which Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Wellington and Taranaki are all part of.

There will be one Central Zone rep team, an under-23 side, which Hawke's Bay players can strive to represent. All up there will be seven Hawke's Bay rep teams - seniors, under-19s, under-17s, under-15s, year eights, years sevens and year sixes.

In addition to these teams, Oliver said the new board intends to introduce a tournament similar to rugby's Ross Shield at age group level involving centre teams.

"While we will obviously be looking for the best of the best at this tournament, it will also provide an opportunity for younger players to get more rep netball," Oliver explained.

Hawke's Bay Netball Centre will be funded by membership fees, sponsorship and trust funding. Oliver said there will be no funding from Netball New Zealand.

"We feel Hawke's Bay teams will be easier to market and attract sponsorship than what Eastern teams were. Hawke's Bay teams will help bring passion back to rep netball in the region."

During Eastern's time at the helm there were sometimes three rep teams from the same age group competing at national age group level and Oliver said the standard became watered down.

She said her board is aware of the work the code's volunteers do in the province and it is the board's intention to ease the volunteers workload.

"Volunteers are crucial to what we do. Our staff will make things better for them."

The Hawke's Bay centre will have four paid staff - a fulltime operations manager, a fulltime business administrator, a part-time community development officer and a part-time high performance officer. Two of these staff are expected to be appointed today.

The national under-17 championships to be played at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park's Pak'n Save Netball Centre in July will be the biggest assignment for Oliver's new outfit next year.

Should the former goal keep and her crew manage to tick off all the boxes associated with hosting such a major event, it will be another step in their quest to bring more cohesion back to the code in the Bay.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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