Dana Johannsen 's Opinion

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Talk off court is still same old nonsense

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Mystics GD Kayla Cullenis just one Silver Fem who was developed in the transtasman league. Photo / Natalie Slade
Mystics GD Kayla Cullenis just one Silver Fem who was developed in the transtasman league. Photo / Natalie Slade

New Zealand's talent pool is growing. Why would we drop a team from the transtasman league?

While the action on the court in this year's transtasman league has been unpredictable, all the talk off it seems to be following the same old script.

Over the first five seasons there have been some recurring themes to the off-court discussion.

Teams try to exploit loopholes in the import rules? Cue lengthy debate over the merits of allowing more imports in to the transtasman league.

Visiting teams struggle with local officiating in transtasman matches? More handwringing over the standard of Kiwi umpiring.

And the latest recycled offering - New Zealand teams cop a battering against their Australian rivals? Time to drop a Kiwi team.

Yep, for the past four years we've been hearing from various sectors how New Zealand's record in the competition will only improve if they ditch a franchise, with the same old short-sighted arguments being used to support it.

They argue New Zealand doesn't have the depth to support five franchises and the only way to ensure we can field competitive sides in the transtasman league is to drop a team.

But if depth is the problem, then dropping a team is only going to exacerbate New Zealand's depth crisis, not alleviate it.

With only four Kiwi sides in the competition New Zealand's elite player stocks would be reduced dramatically.

It would mean there would be just 48 spots open to New Zealand players, severely limiting the pathways for young up-and-coming players.

Some of these contracts would inevitably be taken up by imports and former Kiwi internationals with no desire to wear the black dress again.

Therefore the number of players actually available for New Zealand selection would be more like 35 and it wouldn't be long before the Silver Ferns' performances would drop away.

I know what you're thinking here - the ANZ Championship is not a development league. I say that's nonsense.

But, over the past five years we have seen many players emerge as new stars of the game - in 2008 the names Katrina Grant, Kayla Cullen, Caitlin Bassett, Laura Geitz and Madison Browne would have meant little to netball fans.

Like it or not, the competition is a breeding ground for the next generation of international stars.

Those plumping for a Kiwi side to be dropped in favour of a sixth Australian team conveniently ignore the fact that 90 per cent of the revenue that underwrites the competition came from this side of the Tasman.

The broadcast revenue from New Zealand is effectively helping pay the salaries of the Australian players. Australia are still working on getting their own paid broadcast deal and until they do so, they can't expect to get another team in the league.

Another argument we've heard is that five franchises are not financially sustainable in New Zealand.

With four of the five franchises struggling financially, Magic coach Noeline Taurua believes it's time to cull a team.

Ditching a team is not going to reduce the costs for the rest of the Kiwi teams competing in the league or make them more financially viable. But what will be reduced is the value of the broadcast deal with Sky, as an entire market will be eliminated.

Eventually transtasman league officials will have to recognise there are wider forces at play.

It is probably inevitable that once the competition has matured, and further revenue streams secured, Australia's presence in the league will be increased to reflect the proportional player numbers.

But any expansion should not come at the expense of a New Zealand team.

- NZ Herald

Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana has more than a decade’s experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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