Netball: Aussies plan to fight defections

By Dana Johannsen

Courtney Tairi.
Photo / Supplied
Courtney Tairi. Photo / Supplied

Netball Australia is reviewing how it deals with players with dual eligibility after losing two promising young athletes to New Zealand.

In the past week, the Herald has revealed Netball New Zealand's success in recruiting two former Australian age-group players, with Southern Steel midcourter Courtney Tairi included in the accelerant squad, and 17-year-old schoolgirl Malia Paseka in the emerging talent group.

And with NNZ believed to be in discussions with other Australian-based players with Kiwi links, there could be still more returning to play on this side of the Tasman.

Netball Australia chief executive Kate Palmer said her organisation was always conscious that the advent of the transtasman league was going to open up more player movement between the two countries She believes Tairi and Paseka are only the tip of the iceberg.

"It's probably just the start of some rather complicated citizenship and eligibility issues that will arise in the future," said Palmer.

To keep up with the changing landscape, the Australian national body will be looking at how it can ensure athletes who have come through their development pathways in Australia are not lost to other countries.

In the case of Tairi, who had a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport, Netball Australia has invested a lot of time and money in her development. Now the Silver Ferns stand to benefit.

Palmer said that although Netball Australia wanted to prevent this from happening, it would not consider a heavy-handed approach whereby young academy players were forced to declare their allegiance to Australia.

"The board is definitely considering reviewing this whole aspect around dual citizenship again, but it's more about educating the players, making sure they understand that they have choices and then from there it's ultimately up to them to decide what they want to do," she said.

"We need to make sure that we protect our pathways for our athletes, but we also don't want to force athletes to make those sorts of decisions when they are too young."

Palmer said she had no problems with the way NNZ had gone about recruiting players living in Australia.

NNZ's high performance manager, Tracey Fear, told the Herald this week that the national body had made it a deliberate strategy to chase Australian-based players with Kiwi links.

"We want New Zealand-eligible players residing in Australia to know that they have opportunities in New Zealand."

But just as NNZ takes it upon itself to inform players of the opportunities in New Zealand, so too does its counterpart across the Tasman.

Palmer said that so long as both organisations were up front about their intentions and kept the players' best interests at heart, this approach should continue to work.

"Certainly New Zealand are very transparent about it. They don't try to hide what they are doing they always notify us if they've put in a call to an athlete."

Vote on sweeping changes put on hold

A vote on a shake-up of netball's national structure is on hold while Netball New Zealand tries to drum up support to push the changes through.

NNZ has proposed sweeping changes to the regional set-up advocating a move to a zone-based model.

Under the proposal, five zones would be created, each aligned with an ANZ Championship franchise and responsible for delivering the strategy for the game from the grassroots through to the high-performance end.

The aim is to achieve greater efficiency through resource-sharing by the new organisations.

NNZ's members were poised to vote on the proposal at their annual council meeting in Auckland this month. But with opinion in netball circles divided, NNZ chief executive Raelene Castle delayed the vote to give the national body time to address members' concerns.

"Change makes people nervous, so a lot of the concerns are to do with discomfort around change and it's also a desire to make sure the good things don't change, and the things that aren't working are fixed," said Castle.

"If you can give certainty around those two things, then you can give people the level of comfort they need but we are just not there yet."

The first day of the council has been dedicated to discussing the proposed changes.

Castle said the national body had taken this approach because it wanted to give its members the opportunity to go back and consult their stakeholders.

NNZ's members, which include representatives from the 91 netball centres around the country and the 12 regional bodies, will now vote by post.

- NZ Herald

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