Netball: Teams battle over players

By DAVE WORSLEY

Rugby has its hiccups with the Super 12, Rugby League has its club versus country power struggle and now netball is facing selection issues too.

The 2005 National Bank Cup squads are named tomorrow with a number of players swapping franchises but the way some of the players are shifting is causing resentment. The expected transfer of Megan Hutton from the Shakers to Sting and New Zealand A player Katie Ritchie also from the Shakers to the Rebels is making waves. The Shakers have approached Netball NZ for clarification of the required 21 days notice on player negotiations.

It is the first time in the seven years of the competition this has occurred. However Netball NZ has the final say on any disputes between franchises over players. The governing body's rules specify that negotiations for the National Bank Cup netball season must be completed by November 1 of the previous year. Yet there appears to be a slight grey area on the exact date when a contract must be signed.

Netball New Zealand CEO Shelley McMeeken did not want to comment on particular players until teams were actually confirmed to Netball New Zealand tomorrow, however she did verify that there had been talks with two franchises who are not seeing eye-to-eye.


"We have been in discussion with the Shakers and the Sting. We've been working with them for a better outcome for netball," said McMeeken.

Meanwhile the Rebels have already named their squad which coach Lois Muir says was forced upon them by newspaper reports in Wellington.

"We named our squad early as the Wellington newspapers were going to make a fuss of Katie Ritchie returning home and we wanted our own people to know first," said Muir.

Included in the Rebels are Silver Ferns Anna Scarlett who had been approached by nearly all the other franchises and Angela Mitchell while former Rebel Ritchie will commute from Wellington. New to the team is former Flames player Chantelle Ngaia. Alison Shanks continues her association with the Rebels.

"I think its going to be an exciting year. I feel sorry for the Shakers and the Canterbury Flames, but that seems to be the way it goes," says Muir.

Meanwhile the Diamonds appear to have strengthened their team with the inclusion of Silver Fern Jodi Te Huna from the Flames in the attacking circle alongside NZ under-21 reps Bridgette Tapene, Rachel Rassmusen and Maria Tutaia, who is just 17.

The Diamonds also have gained Stephanie Bond from the Rebels who is expected to slot in to replace former Silver Fern Lorna Suafoa who is taking time out to study. Former Australian international Kathryn Harby-Williams is thought to be very keen to return for the Diamonds again.

Across the bridge, the Force have added former South African and Silver Fern Leana du Plooy from the Magic and will include 1.95m Catherne Latu as shooting back up for Daneka Wipiiti. The Shakers and Flames have been hit hard by defections while the Flyers look unlikely to challenge for a top four spot. Six-time defending champs, the Sting have retained their stars and the Magic have Irene van Dyk at the helm along with their strong mid-court.

- THE HERALD ON SUNDAY

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