The aim is to stage the biggest social netball event in the country and Hawke's Bay Netball has recruited two heavyweights in the code to help put the concept on the map.

Former Australian Diamond Catherine Cox and retired Silver Fern Irene van Dyk will be in Hastings to promote the brainchild of HB Netball operations manager Tina Arlidge next month.

The inaugural two-day Court in the Bay will start on September 30 at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Percival Rd in a carnival-like atmosphere.

Tina Arlidge.
Tina Arlidge.

"It's quite a big thing but I think we're ready for it," says Arlidge after budgeting around $40,000 for the tournament.

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Feelers have been put out to every netball centre around the country while New Zealand Netball is promoting it as well. The tourney is targeting anyone over 18, including women, men and mixed teams.

"In the first year, I think we have to be a little realistic. We just want people to come to have a great experience then go back and tell everybody," she says, revealing they had launched a website and Facebook page to encourage some robust discussion.

The response has been encouraging from Auckland, Wellington, Taranaki and as far south as Christchurch but with five weeks to go before entries close, Arlidge is expecting a late surge.

"This far out I know the netball community tend to enter in the last minute so we want to see lots of people registered."

She sees Cox and Van Dyk as drawcards and their effervescent personalities to rub off on others.

Arlidge first broached the subject with Van Dyk last year when the former goal shoot had returned from the Netball Australia-run NetFest, an event of a similar ilk which has mushroomed from 500 participants in its inaugural year to more than 2500 last year, with Kiwis in the equation.

"By chance Irene said to me that somebody needs to do this in New Zealand. I said it was funny because I've always wanted to do this," she says, revealing Van Dyk had indicated her commitment right there.

"To have Catherine Cox as well, who approached us, because she has family connections in Hawke's Bay," says Arlidge, disclosing that Cox's partner hails from the Bay.

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The Whangarei-born Cox, who left with her family for Australia when she was 6, has more than 100 caps for Australia and is a multiple ANZ Championship title winner.

In a videotaped message, the 40-year-old says: "I cannot wait to be heading to New Zealand for Court in the Bay. I will be teaming up with my great mate, Irene van Dyk, for all the fun, all the shenanigans and a little bit of netball."

Arlidge says HB Netball will again call on its stellar army of volunteers to ensure the tourney runs flawlessly.

"It'll be quite different from any other tournaments we've run."

Sponsors are keen on the event so, cash aside, HB netball has been gathering items to provide each team with gift packs to showcase the Bay as well as tournament merchandise such as drink bottles, caps and hoodies.

"Because it's in the middle of the school holidays we want families to come and not just stay for the tournament but be here for a few days to have a holiday.

"Would the school holidays be an easier time that you can find baby sitters or send them to the grans or bring them here."

They are hopeful 60 to 80 teams will be here next month then build on it by luring teams from outside the Bay.

In three years, they envisage more than 200 teams from New Zealand and Australia will converge here.

No doubt having Cox will hopefully provide a pathway to a few Aussie teams.

"The unknown makes us feel a little nervous but I'm sure it's going to be okay. With the backing we already have we're not going to lose any money."

Competitive grade players can wear their usual weekly or club uniforms.

"There'll be a competitive element to it but I imagine a large chunk of people will be here to be social and have fun."

Arlidge had the concept on the backburner from the time she started in December 2012 but the initial focus was to tidy up the domestic competition.

"We wanted to take care of our core business first because this [Court in the Bay] is something new."

She looked at the market and spied a gap in the calendar, mindful of numerous school and age-grade tourneys.

"In fact, there's actually quite a lot of burnout because secondary schoolgirls can play for schools, rep and club netball as well as go to multiple tournaments.

"But there aren't many opportunities for people like myself who want to play more for fun and socialise with friends."

She has recruited Nicki Lugt as event administrator.

While the intention isn't to make a profit this year, the goal is to break even. It helps immensely that the Hastings Districts and Napier City councils have got behind it.

"NZCT have just given us $10,000 towards it so it'll give us a start-up cost of covering the ambassadors ... we want everything to be perfect."

The Bay has 105 club teams but while they don't expect everyone to enter, they are anticipating netball lovers will reshuffle on their own terms with family and friends.

Spot prizes will be up for grabs and entertainment will include bars, DJs and bands, including activities such as tug o' war and 4 x 100m challenges will add to the carnival atmosphere.

The councils have pledged "seed funding", recognising its "huge potential", something Arlidge suspects will be second only to the Horse of the Year turnout. Entry forms are on www.courtinthebay.co.nz and www.facebook.com/courtinthebay/.