Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Mystics against proposed transtasman split

Maria Tutaia and Catherine Latu of the Northern Mystics. Photo / Getty
Maria Tutaia and Catherine Latu of the Northern Mystics. Photo / Getty

News of a possible split in the transtasman league has been met with disappointment in the Northern Mystics camp.

The Auckland franchise today launched their 2016 season, introducing their new-look team to media and sponsors. But the uncertainty over what shape the competition will take beyond this year drew away some of the focus on the upcoming season.

Netball bosses are in the process of reviewing the structure of the competition for 2017, with Netball Australia hoping to add a further three franchises. The planned expansion has raised talk of a splitting the New Zealand and Australian competitions and tagging on some transtasman component at the end.

But Netball Northern chairwoman Dianne McAteer said the franchise would not support this approach.

"We continue to support a transtasman competition and we believe our counterparts across the Tasman do as well."

Mystics coach Debbie Fuller believes a move to a more domestic-focused league would be a step back for the players.

"We love playing the Australians, we love the challenge of playing the different styles and the competitive nature of those games. Each Australian team has a different style just as every New Zealand side has a different style, and that's what keeps you on your toes," said Fuller.

Fuller also questioned whether Australia had the depth to support eight franchises.

"I don't think Australia have a case for getting more teams until they get rid of the imports from their teams. If you are going to have another team in the competition, why do you need imports? They should be able to fill those import spots first."

With the ANZ Championship entering its ninth season, the Mystics coach accepts that in order for the competition to remain relevant it is time for a rethink. But she said she would hate to see netball bosses undo all the progress that has been made to date.

"With any decision like that people have to respect the history of netball, it took a lot of work to bring our sport into the semi professional arena."

While there is concern over the future of the professional competition, the introduction of a new national league this year has boosted optimism New Zealand netball is finally addressing its depth issues. The new Beko National League will underpin the ANZ Championship, filling the competition gap between college netball and the professional end.

The Mystics principal sponsors, Sky City, have recognised the importance of the competition, signing a fresh sponsorship agreement to support Netball Northern in the new league.

- NZ Herald

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