As concerns mount over the increasing physicality in netball, transtasman league officials are preparing to introduce a new judicial review system and umpiring structures in an effort to keep pace with the changing face of the game.
The Weekend Herald can reveal the ANZ Championship has started an extensive review process into its disciplinary procedures and investment in umpiring.
In a week where rival claims of dirty tactics have prompted much discussion about the state of the game, there has been growing pressure on netball bosses to step in and act before tension escalates.
But ANZ Championship general manager Andy Crook said the review was not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events but part of its ongoing efforts to adapt to the rapidly evolving sport.
Plans had already been discussed to bring together a panel of netball experts and stakeholders, including coaching and player representation, from both sides of the Tasman to discuss the trends emerging.
While some claim the talk of increasing physicality is simply a media beat-up, Crook said the issue was raised in meetings with players before the start of the season and the league has been monitoring it closely over the first three rounds.
"There is obviously a lot of talk around the changing nature of the game, there's definitely a view that the players are becoming faster and stronger and that is increasing the physicality in the game - are there other issues around that? That is what this panel will tease out," he said.
The panel will also review the league's judicial system as the ANZ Championship looks to implement clearer disciplinary procedures around player conduct on and off the court. "We'll be looking at how we review matches, and how we put in place sanctions," said Crook.
"We want a more efficient reporting process for the teams and to improve the [way] ... we collect information, and how we escalate anything that comes out of that review."
While Crook stresses the details of the new initiatives won't be ironed out for weeks, the franchises are likely to welcome the news with relief.
A more robust judiciary system will give teams recourse if they feel an opponent has used excessive force or played outside the spirit of the game, meaning they won't be as compelled to vent their frustrations in public, as has been the case recently.
Sanctions are only likely to be imposed in exceptional circumstances, and there is nothing to suggest the incidents in focus over the past couple of weeks involving Laura Geitz and Eboni Beckford-Chambers would warrant those players being cited under the new system, but it will put players on notice.
Crook said the league was also taking a proactive approach to tackling issues around the national differences in umpiring interpretations, with representatives from Netball New Zealand and its Australian counterparts to meet next week in a bid to get better consistency with rulings and improve the umpiring system's professionalism.
Both national bodies have conducted reviews into their umpiring structures, consulting with other major codes on how to improve their systems around umpire coaching and make better use of technology.
"We will discuss the structure around [ANZ Championship] umpires and how we can continue to improve the professional manner in which that system operates," said Crook. "We will look at the investment in the system and how we can better spend that money to ensure the umpires continue to get the resources to do their job."
Leaders of the 10 franchises will be in Christchurch next week for a CEO's conference, with the new initiatives likely to be high on the agenda.