Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball body 'frustrated' by Aussies over competition

NNZ chief executive Hilary Poole. Photo / NZPA
NNZ chief executive Hilary Poole. Photo / NZPA

Netball New Zealand is quickly losing patience with its counterparts across the Tasman as the waiting game over the future of the ANZ Championship continues.

The 2016 season was officially launched with the weekend's summer shootout competition in Auckland and Sydney, but it remains to be seen whether this year will be the last transtasman league.

Netball Australia is seeking to increase the number of franchises across the Tasman from five to eight, but the expansion is reliant on securing a paid broadcast deal - something it has been unable to do over the first eight years of the competition.

NA hoped to have the broadcast negotiations sewn up by the end of February, but as April approaches there is still no word on their progress.

The possible addition of three extra Australian franchises in the league next season has raised the prospect of the competition being split and moving back to more of a domestic focus.

But NNZ is unable to set any plans for this in motion until an outcome of the broadcast negotiations in Australia is know.

Asked if NA is holding the future of the competition to ransom by pinning its hopes on expansion on a broadcast deal, NNZ chief executive Hilary Poole responded: "I'll be honest, we are increasingly frustrated.

"It's been a nemesis of this championship from day one the lack of consistency in long-term agreements in terms of the Australian host broadcaster. As time goes on, we start to look at other options as well, as we have been, but we start to look at other things a bit more seriously."

Should the competition split, Poole has indicated NNZ will look to add a sixth New Zealand franchise - most likely in Auckland. But Poole said she's not yet ready to give up on the idea of maintaining some form of transtasman competition.

"We've got to consider all options. Our position remains that we would still very much like to continue with some form of integrated transtasman competition, but it's got to work for all parties," she said.

A former Australian franchise coach said she would be "devastated" to see the transtasman element of the competition reduced.

Jane Woodlands-Thompson, who guided the Adelaide Thunderbirds for the first eight years of the competition, believes returning to a domestic-focused league would be a step backwards.

"The ANZ Championship is the best thing that has happened to netball. To have the best players from New Zealand and Australia, and also the best hand-picked players from England, Jamaica, Malawi and potentially South Africa one day is a dream. It's a good model," said Woodlands-Thompson, who now mentors Northern Mystics coach Debbie Fuller.

"It's sort of going back to the old CBT [Commonwealth Bank Trophy, Australia's former domestic competition] days, which was a model that didn't work for us in the end.

"We had three really strong teams, a couple of mediocre ones and then some ordinary ones and it just wasn't working."

The two-time championship winning coach said she would prefer to see the league move to a full home and away competition, rather than split away.

- NZ Herald

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