Netball New Zealand and its Australian counterparts today finally confirmed the end of the ANZ Championship is nigh.
Netball gurus Dana Johannsen and Rikki Swannell answer the big questions on the transtasman league split.
How did it come to this?
DJ: In a nutshell, it was the competitive and commercial imbalances that made an on-going transtasman partnership untenable.
With a far greater talent pool across the ditch, Netball Australia felt it was time to add more teams to the league. Netball NZ were supportive of this, provided expansion didn't come at the expense of any Kiwi sides, and Netball Australia could find a way to fund these new teams on its own as for the first nine years of the competition, all the broadcast revenue had been generated out of NZ.
But the Aussie broadcasters wanted more local content and weren't so much interested in the transtasman component, leading to a shift back to domestic leagues in each country.
RS: Imbalance on and off the court - New Zealand's strength off it and Australia's on it.
The dominance of Australia's teams in recent seasons, the incredible grand final and the success of hosting of last year's World Cup have given Netball Australia the impetus it was looking for to make this move. While there is a wave of momentum behind the sport, they see now as the time to try to become a dominant player in the jammed Australian market and finally get themselves a worthy broadcast deal.
Good for them, but there's no way Netball New Zealand should be paying for that by divvying up the money they get from Sky TV and they're now using Australia's ambition to start looking after number one again. NNZ were absolutely non-negotiable about dropping a New Zealand team from the competition, and that stance was the beginning of the end.
What's the reaction been like in the NZ netball community?
DJ: When the Herald first reported a split in the transtasman league was one of the options being discussed by netball bosses, the initial reaction in netball circles was disappointment. Many believed this would be an absolute disaster for New Zealand netball from both a competitive and commercial point of view. But over the last six weeks there has been a notable shift and there is a real sense of enthusiasm for what life after the ANZ Champs may hold.
This enthusiasm is yet to trickle down to fans, however. Today's confirmation will be met with widespread disappointment with from diehard netball fans, who are upset they'll no longer be able to see New Zealand players footing it with the top Australians on a regular basis.
Once Netball NZ is in a position to disclose the full extent of their plans, which features an international component, fans may be a little happier.
RS: Different on both sides of the Tasman. The initial concerns in the New Zealand community that this would be the death knell seem to have swung completely the other way to a feeling of "bugger off Australia, we're quite fine without you", and on the face of it at least, the zones, boards and players association are backing Netball NZ. This may not have filtered down to the fans, and the diehards will be disappointed not to have a trans-Tasman element, however I suspect the interest in netball of most general sports fans lies with the Silver Ferns and Australia.
There is more discontent and trepidation in Australia. If rumours of rule changes are true then questions should be asked if Netball Australia has sold its soul for a broadcast deal, while I gather many of the state bodies are on the verge of gathering the pitchforks and marching on NA. Consider Netball Victoria's position for example - they may lose funding for a new facility, risk having their shop window, the Vixens, be raided by rich new private investors but still have to deliver rep and junior programmes for the state. Not sure I'd be too happy with that.
What will this mean for the Silver Ferns' competitiveness?
DJ: That really will depend on the attitude of the franchises and players. The ANZ Championship has exposed the Kiwi teams to new levels of professionalism in terms of fitness, preparation, match play and recovery. New Zealand netball will fast go backwards if there is a relaxing of these standards now that they are not meeting the Aussie franchises in regular competition.
RS: New Zealand dominated Australia from 2003-2006 with players from a domestic competition, and after being in the doldrums through 2013-2014 the Silver Ferns won three and lost three against Australia last year, including a couple of the most impressive victories seen for some time.
This is a chance for New Zealand to regain its identity and playing style rather than trying to match Australia's... the contrast between the teams is what has always made the Silver Ferns v Diamonds such a great contest. Sheer numbers mean New Zealand will never be able to match Australia when the talent is spread across a vast number of teams as it has been in the ANZ Championship, but after last year's efforts by the Ferns the signs are there that New Zealand's best seven is once again more than a match for Australia's best.