Netball Australia's aggressive push to have the biggest and best domestic league has come at the expense of their national programme, according to Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander.
The Australian team are going through a rare period of turmoil as they head into this month's Constellation Cup series, which gets underway in Auckland on Thursday night, after their programme was thrown into disarray following their shock 57-47 Quad Series loss to the Silver Ferns last month.
The result flied in the face of predictions that the highly competitive Australian league, which was established following the split in the transtasman competition in 2016, would result in New Zealand dropping further off the pace of the world champion Diamonds team. Alexander said her side's performance in Invercargill revealed the Super Netball competition is not necessarily preparing her players well for the international environment.
Netball Australia have been unashamedly ambitious with their commercial aspirations for their new league, adding three new franchises to the mix, opening the door to unlimited imports, and making a series of subtle rule changes in an effort to enhance the television product.
Asked if the changes have had a detrimental effect on her programme, Alexander replied:
"Definitely. It is what it is, you can see the reasons why - they want to make the Suncorp Super Netball a commercial success. But the result is the result - that's what has happened, [the Diamonds season] has been pushed into a very small window."
Following last month's loss in Invercargill, Alexander highlighted the variation in time-out rules in the Australian league as having an impact on her side's horror start to the match, in which they found themselves eight goals down at the first break after being caught off guard by the intensity of the Ferns.
"Our players have gotten used to being coached halfway through a quarter, whereas at international level that's just not available to them," she said.
There could be further rule changes to come next year, with NA continuing to mull over the possibility of introducing a two-point shot to the competition. The controversial move was put on hold for the inaugural season following an outcry from several high profile players as well as fans.
Alexander, who also joined the chorus of objectors, said she is awaiting clarity from the board.
"The thing is [Netball Australia] have to make a decision on is the domestic competition going to be sitting alone as a product, or feeding into the national team? That's the question I have to ask the board at the end of the day."
The Diamonds coach said she sympathises with the plight of NA administrators, who are trying to ensure Super Netball makes its mark in a congested sporting market across the Tasman.
Alexander said even one poor performance against the Ferns last month has had a noticeable impact on the amount of coverage the Australian team has received in the lead-up to the Constellation Cup series.
"We're so competitive with other sports in Australia that one loss and we have completely dropped off the radar, and that sort of feeds into that pressure that 'oh we've got to win, we've got to win'," she said.
"But we can't get too negative about things. When we look at what we planned for this season, of course we always want to win, we were always looking out our options and what's going to be the best mix of players for Comm Games, which is our key priority."