New Zealand and Australia look set to meet in pool play of the 2015 Netball World Cup after a radical overhaul of the event format for the next tournament.
The international netball federation (INF) today announced their plans for the next event in Sydney in 2015 with the revised competition format the most significant change. The tournament - now known as the Netball World Cup, rather than championships - will be extended to 10 days, with every team to play eight games, rather than six, while there will be an increased emphasis on the regional qualifying events.
One of the main criticisms of the previous event format was the lack of competitive matches during the round robin stage, leading to the top four nations cruising through the tournament with predictable ease, before the inevitable New Zealand v Australia showdown in the final.
But a change to the pool composition means there will be more competitive matches during the round robin, with the number one and number two nations in the world to be grouped together in the same pool, as will three and four, five and six and seven and eight.
The draw will be allocated based on the rankings in July next year, but as New Zealand and Australia have been the top two nations in the world since the current rankings system was devised in 2009, it is almost certain they will meet in the preliminary round of the tournament. After the preliminary round the teams will be re-ranked, with the top eight and bottom eight teams splitting off in the qualifying round.
The top eight will battle it out for the World Cup, while the bottom eight will be compete for a plate.
Netball World Cup chief executive Marne Fechner said the organisers wanted to come up with a format that would create a product fitting for netball's pinnacle event.
"The reality for our sport is netball is now an entertainment spectacle so we had to find that nice mix of it being a world event, but at the end of the day being a great product that people would want to come and watch and broadcasters would want to say 'we want that event'," said Fechner.
"We wanted to make sure that we had blockbuster games from day one through to day 10."
Silver Ferns vice captain Laura Langman, who was at today's launch in Sydney, said the new format will create extra challenges for the teams competing making it truly the pinnacle event in the sport.
"[The new format] was actually news to me, so it will be interesting to see what our strategy will be for it and how we prepare. I'm glad to hear we get an extra day off as well though - we're going to need it. It'll be a lot of netball," she said.
"I think it will be great, there will be a lot of close, competitive matches which is what everyone wants to see."
The Netball World Cup will be held at Sydney Olympic Park from August 7-16, 2015.