Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Netball: Radical overhaul gets the green light

Irene Van Dyk is soon to turn 40. Photo / Getty Images
Irene Van Dyk is soon to turn 40. Photo / Getty Images

Netball New Zealand have been handed the mandate to push ahead with a radical overhaul of the national structure.

The sport is on the verge of one of the most significant shifts in its history after netball bosses from around the country voted for a proposal to move to a zone-based structure.

The new plan, which will be implemented over the back half of this year, will see the 12 regional offices abolished and in its place five zones created - each to be aligned with a transtasman league franchise.

The national body informed its members of the results yesterday, after holding a postal vote to decide the fate of the proposal.

A strong majority of 70 per cent of NNZ's members - representatives from the 12 regions and 91 netball centres around the country - voted in favour of the plan. This marks a huge shift in thinking from earlier in the year, with initial support for the zonal structure lukewarm.

The vote, originally scheduled to be held at NNZ's annual council meeting in February, had to be delayed to allow the national body more time to drum up support for their plan.

While the larger netball community have come to realise the current model is no longer sustainable, the next 12 months loom as a painful period of restructure. There are still pockets of opposition to the change, and NNZ chief executive Raelene Castle acknowledges merging unwilling regions will have to be carefully managed.

"I think we do have some factions that are very unhappy and against the change, but we just need to work with those people, we need to continue to communicate, we need to bring them in to the mix and make sure they feel part of the whole process," said Castle.

One of the regions believed to be opposed to the move is Bay of Plenty.

Netball BOP chief executive Sheryl Dawson, who also heads the Magic franchise, would not comment on the decision yesterday as she said she does not know what impact the new structure will have on her region.

Several of the 91 netball centres, which each receive a vote, were also opposed to the plan, but Castle is confident with the bulk of the community in favour, the centres will "quickly become part of the bigger picture".

A project manager has been appointed to oversee the process, and over the next two weeks working groups for each of the zones will be created. Once the necessary constitutional changes have been made by August/September, NNZ will establish new governing bodies for the zones with the view to beginning 2013 under the model.

Castle said it was important that the national body implement the changes swiftly so the sport is not caught in no man's land. "If you don't have a short, sharp time frame to work towards the sport gets into a malaise and decision-making gets delayed as no one is sure what things are going to look like down the track," she said.

With the regional bodies to be abolished under the new structure, it will also mean an overhaul of NNZ's competitions.

NEW STRUCTURE

* 12 regional offices abolished and five zones created, each to be aligned with a transtasman league franchise.

* Zones responsible for overseeing all aspects of the game from the grassroots level through to the high-performance end.

* Zone 1 will merge the Netball North, Auckland Waitakere and Counties Manukau regions; zone 2 covers Waikato and Bay of Plenty; zone 3 combines Eastern, Wellington and Western; zone 4 Tasman and Canterbury and zone 5 will formally bring Otago and Southland together.

- NZ Herald

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