Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: ANZ Champs looks to move to conference system

Mystic shooter Catherine Latu (L) and Magic defender Casey Kopua reach for the ball during the Waikato BOP Magic v Northern Mystics. Photo / Christine Cornege.
Mystic shooter Catherine Latu (L) and Magic defender Casey Kopua reach for the ball during the Waikato BOP Magic v Northern Mystics. Photo / Christine Cornege.

The transtasman netball league will follow in the footsteps of Super Rugby and move to a conference system next year if a proposed structural change is approved.

Following a lengthy review of the ANZ Championship, now into its seventh season, league bosses are in the final stages of developing a proposal to change the competition structure for 2015, which will include the introduction of New Zealand and Australian conferences and increasing the finals series to six teams.

While the TTNL - the governing body of the ANZ Championship - are pushing on with plans to revamp the structure, a proposal to move the competition to summer has, as expected, been binned following consultation with key stakeholders.

ANZ Championship general manager Andy Crook said under the proposed plans teams will be separated into national pools for the purpose of points calculations and standings, ultimately ending the current model of all 10 teams sitting in one league table.

However the structure of the draw is not anticipated to change, with teams still to play local rivals twice, and transtasman rivals once.

The big will see the final series overhauled with the top three teams from the Australian and New Zealand conferences to progress through the playoffs.

"For the last 12 months the ANZ Championship has been conducting a review, including reviewing 10,000 survey responses from fans, into the future timing and structure of the league to ensure it remains a world-class and vibrant competition," Crook said.

"We're confident that the introduction of conferences will ensure that every match played throughout the regular season will have significance towards finals standings and intra-country rivalries,"Crook said.

Stage one of the revamped finals format would see teams that finishing first in the Australian and New Zealand conferences have the bye in the opening week of finals with the second and third-placed sides contesting an intra-conference elimination on either side of the Tasman. The winners of the matches will progress to the second week for a conference final to decide the Australian and New Zealand champions, but no team will be eliminated at this point.

The second stage will see transtasman semifinals and the ANZ Championship grand final in weeks three and four, ensuring the best performing teams play-off for the ultimate prize of lifting the ANZ Championship trophy and increasing the number of finals matches from four to seven in the process.

"The review has provided us with an opportunity to revisit the structure of the ANZ Championship's finals series, which is our opportunity to showcase our competition, so a restructure will improve our finals product through more intraconference rivalries and critical games," Crook said.

While the new competition structure has not been finalised yet, transtasman league officials have confirmed they will introduce a separate challenge, which will operate in a similar way to provincial rugby's Ranfurly Shield. The as yet unnamed 'challenge system' will run concurrently with the existing season and not include play-off matches.

"The challenge competition ... supports our ambition of establishing long and proud traditions in the ANZ Championship for many years to come," Crook said.

- NZ Herald

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