Kris Shannon: Netball NZ the losers without Langman

By Kris Shannon

Laura Langman's record of consecutive games for the Silver Ferns looks set to end next year. Picture / Photosport
Laura Langman's record of consecutive games for the Silver Ferns looks set to end next year. Picture / Photosport

As the Silver Ferns fought for an unlikely victory in the second game in the Constellation Cup, it would have surprised few to watch Laura Langman snatch a key fourth-quarter steal and allow her side to triumph.

Next year, though, if New Zealand are in a similar position, looking to stay alive in a series while Australia attempt to add to a slender lead, Langman will be in front of a television.

There are no shortage of reasons to argue for Langman's exclusion once she makes her switch to the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

Setting a perilous precedent seems central, for allowing Langman an opportunity to moonlight as a Silver Fern while enjoying a day job across the Tasman would, in theory, allow others to follow.

Which, in turn, would weaken the New Zealand domestic league while strengthening our neighbours' and, in the aftermath of the ANZ Championship split, the timing of any shift in power would prove less than ideal.

And those points are all valid. Netball New Zealand's position in preventing a talent drain across the Ditch in understandable. But the rule still seems like something out of a bygone era.

Professional athletes are employees and, like any business, should be permitted to pursue any opportunity available.

Penalising one of those employees for plying their trade outside of the country is an impediment that reeks of protecting the employer at the expense of those doing the job.

And, yes, this is probably the point to reference the All Blacks doing the exact same thing.

The lure of the sacred Black Jersey has long guaranteed players would take voluntary pay cuts, eschewing their true market value because the men at the top said so.

Which is both ridiculous and a reminder that rugby, too, is still taking its nascent steps in professionalism. But the rule works. With the odd exception, we retain all our top talent, strengthening the All Blacks while also weakening the global game.

Now, New Zealand Rugby has no prerogative to enhance the abilities of its rivals by injecting our players into their competitions. But it should have a prerogative to ensure its players make the most of their fleeting careers, especially given the revenue those men generate for the governing body.

Would the All Blacks suffer a severe exodus if they did allow players to seek top dollar overseas and still turn out for the national team? It's impossible to prove, and unlikely to happen any time soon, so I feel safe in suggesting the departure lounge would be a little less crowded than once thought.

While athletes are entitled to every last cent their legs can reap, not all are motivated only by the almighty dollar. The strength of Super Rugby and the attraction of playing with, against and in front of friends must also represent real temptation, particularly when the alternative is being well remunerated but bored and lonely in Japan.

Once again, this is purely hypothetical, so the safest of predictions, but I think in such a scenario, it would still be those around the fringes who headed offshore: young players looking for a well-paid OE and veterans seeking financial security. To which both groups are entitled.

Just like Langman is entitled to play on the Sunshine Coast while prolonging her incredible streak of consecutive tests.

In any case, no one can accuse her of chasing money; the midcourter would have been paid more had she remained in New Zealand and stayed on a safe path to the black dress.

Langman's motivations are her business and she should never be punished for wanting to pursue her passion in whatever way she chooses. But, as it stands, it is absolutely the Silver Ferns' choice to punish themselves.

- NZ Herald

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