ANZ Championship split: Are we being dumped?

By Dana Johannsen & Rikki Swannell

New Zealand teams may be left out in the scrap for the future of the ANZ Championship. Photo / Getty
New Zealand teams may be left out in the scrap for the future of the ANZ Championship. Photo / Getty

Netball reporters Dana Johannsen and Rikki Swannell answer three questions about the impending split of the ANZ Championship.

Oh my god, are we being dumped?

DJ: You would certainly think that way reading the headlines in Australia. The reality is, little has changed since the Herald revealed in February this year that the competition was headed for a split. The most recent stories out of Australia provide further detail of what their new domestic competition would look like, with the extra three teams set to be backed by private investors and partner with NRL and AFL clubs.

But there will still be a transtasman component to the competition, most likely a champions league style play-off at the end.

RS: It does feel as if Netball Australia's telling us "it's not you, it's me", but perhaps this is more of a conscious uncoupling. The discrepancies between the teams on the court and Netball Australia's wish to capitalise on a seemingly increased appetite for the game there means this has been coming.

However I wouldn't fear too much that Netball New Zealand is the jilted lover...my feeling is they've quietly gone about setting themselves up for next year, and while a lot of the talk and excitement is being generated out of Australia, NNZ has wisely kept its counsel.

Why couldn't the status quo remain, just with more Australian teams?

DJ: In a word, broadcasters. Netball Australia's push for expansion, which was supported by their Kiwi counterparts, was contingent upon securing a paid broadcast deal across the Tasman. Problem was, the Aussie broadcasters weren't so much interested in the transtasman element of the competition. They wanted more local content. Likewise Sky Sport weren't thrilled about the idea of an eight-five split in teams.

So it in interests of both countries the decision was made to move back to separate standalone domestic competitions, with transtasman crossover games at some point in the season.

RS: Because of Sky TV. The relationship with the broadcaster is a huge ace up the sleeve of Netball New Zealand (disclaimer: I work for Sky as a netball commentator) and Sky has made positive noises about its ongoing commitment to New Zealand Netball. But they wouldn't want a competition so heavily swayed to showing Australian teams, nor would they or NNZ go for the original idea of culling one team here in favour of just one more in Australia.

Is this going to hurt Netball New Zealand?

DJ: There's been a lot of alarmist speculation that New Zealand's top players will flock across the Tasman to take up contracts with Australian franchises, weakening the domestic competition here and therefore impacting broadcast and commercial revenue. But it would be a huge surprise is Netball NZ allowed this to happen.

The current Silver Ferns selection criteria requires players to be play in New Zealand. There's been a notable exceptions to that recently, with Laura Langman granted an exemption by NNZ to play for the NSW Swifts this season, but it's unlikely the national body likely will be as open to this in the future.

RS: Perhaps in the short term and maybe from a PR perspective initially - there's a perception that Australia's dominance on the court means they're superior across the board, and because all the noise on this topic has come from across the ditch that NNZ is letting itself be trodden on.

There's a prospect that Netball Australia will cannibalize itself with this move. It could be great for them for a couple of years, but with a big push for women's cricket and AFL, netball will come under enormous pressure to remain sustainable.

It's also been quickly forgotten that some pretty good players and national teams came out of previous NZ domestic competitions before the advent of the ANZ Championship. The Silver Ferns have also come through a rough two years to make it 3-all in games against Australia last year.

While they have sometimes been too conservative, Netball New Zealand has shown an ability to galvanize very quickly - the 2007 World Cup and the new Beko League got off the ground within six months or less.

New Zealand's money, initiative and governance has propped up the Aussies for long enough.

If I were NNZ, I'd be more concerned about the threat from women's sevens and other growth sports, which are giving talented young female athletes a lot of opportunities, rather than worry about what the Australians are doing.

- NZ Herald

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