Netball: Merger stacking up

By Anendra Singh

No, they may not be sold on the concept of the merger of the two cities but netballers in Hawke's Bay generally feel the amalgamation of Hastings and Napier is working.

No doubt, they have a few gripes but nothing they won't be able to tweak for the better with Hawke's Bay Netball.

There's the cost of fuel in travelling to play and there's the "astronomical" fee hike since the consolidation that have ruffled a few bibs but, it seems, the consensus is they are not things that cannot be fixed.

Primarily, Napier teams are benefiting most from the netball rennaisance.

"The fees did go up and we thought long and hard about it so we weren't happy," says Pam Raddock, of Hastings High School Old Girls' Wekas 9th grade team.

The 59-year-old player/coach in the last grade, who has played for 48 years but here since 2009, says the Bay isn't big enough to accommodate two centres.

"The two [local government] councils here should merge, too," says a laughing Raddock, who was vice-president of the Papakura centre (Auckland) and knows how much work goes into a sport relying predominantly on volunteers.

"For those who don't like it [merger] they can offer to work on a committee ... or they can shut up and get on with it."

She hastens to add there will be a few teething problems but people will learn amid a bedding down phase.

"If something doesn't work then you can try something else and a few years later people won't remember the problems."

However, Raddock, who played for the Counties Marist premier team in the Auckland competition, says some of her teammates are disappointed to be in the lowest grade of the social competition after they were in the 7th grade last winter.

"That's not because of the amalgamation but the number of grades, so that's life," says the human resources manager.

"If we want to go up to a better grade then we'll just have to have the desire to be better and win," she says of a team comprising myriad ages from teenagers to someone her age.

While winning is important, helping develop players' skills, especially those returning from a long layoff or in their "twilight years", and co-existing in a fun environment are equally important.

While no one grizzled about travelling costs, she says they will make car-pooling a "fun thing" if the issue arises.

However, Raddock feels all games should be played at the new Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park courts.

"You don't end up pissing off people in residential areas with cars and noise every Saturday."

Taradale Netball Club president/player Sian Williams says the merger is a fillip for Napier, considering players were defecting to the Hastings competition over the years in search of tougher competition.

The Taradale Shakers premier one player, who has been playing for 19 years, says they have made playoffs consistently for several years but are now last in the revamped competition and face demotion.

The increase in fees - from about $700 last year to $1400 this season a team - is "huge" but the club's fundraising in previous years means members haven't had to pay more.

"One thing that annoyed us was that the initial ballpark figure given to us was different from the final one by about $400 a team so it was very substantial."

The 37-year-old shipping manager accepts HB Netball have to pay wages/costs and says they have promised to revisit the costs once funding is sorted this financial year.

Williams is unhappy the Saturday clubs are having to pay the same fees as Intercity clubs (mid-week premier league) who have better facilities indoors at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale.

Conversely, she lauds the mid-week intermediate school games that enable parents to coach and play on Saturdays.

Having 25 more high school sides also means the three Napier Girls' High teams don't have to play each other, too.

"The future of netball looks better," Williams says, adding Di Ennor's vision of having Bay girls play on the national stage is something to be proud of.

"People will complain about things but we have to look at the bigger picture."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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