It has been a month of interesting developments on the netball recruitment front, with the confirmation of the squad lists of the Australian Super Netball franchises sparking a wave of fresh angst about the New Zealand competition.

Dana Johannsen shares seven thoughts on netball's silly season.

What exodus?
The loss of former Silver Ferns Leana de Bruin and Cathrine Tuivaiti to the Australian Super Netball competition has prompted much hand-wringing over the state of New Zealand netball, with several commentators lamenting the "exodus" and "player drain" to Australia.

Oh my god! If it carries on at this rate, in circa 75,000 years we're not going to have any players left in New Zealand!


Losing two players who have both admitted they initially had no intention of playing next year hardly constitutes an exodus. From an international competitiveness stand point, Netball NZ won't be too unhappy to see players lured out of impending retirement to clog up development pathways across the Tasman.

But there is no getting around the likes of Tuivaiti and de Bruin, who have both signed with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, will be missed in the ANZ Premiership. Having players of the skill and experience of the two former internationals adds prestige to the competition and helps the players around them grow. But like they said, they were going to be lost regardless.

Selection drama
Speaking of Tuivaiti, anyone who was surprised she missed out on a Silver Ferns trial has not been paying attention for the past two years.

The crafty shooter is a brilliant, creative playmaker and produced typically impressive shooting statistics this year. But she has failed to address the key concerns of her game that saw her dropped from the national programme - conditioning and consistency.
Tuivaiti may be able to dance her way around some New Zealand defences, but she is not as effective against the Australian style of play as she doesn't have the fitness to cope with the relentless one-on-one pressure. Nor does she have the conditioning to cope with the demands of an international tour, where the Silver Ferns play up to three tests a week and train twice a day on the intervening days.

It didn't help that Janine Southby, in an effort to delicately explain Tuivaiti's non-selection, said the veteran shooter was overlooked due to "off-court reasons". This was misinterpreted by some as Tuivaiti being a "trouble-maker", which is certainly not the case.

The answer is more straightforward - Tuivaiti's conditioning has clearly gone backwards this season.

It therefore seems a little disingenuous to claim she has not had any communication with the national selectors over her ex-communication. Her coach at the Pulse, Yvette McCausland-Durie is the assistant coach of the Silver Ferns and would have given her clear feedback on what she needed to do to push her case for re-selection.

That she failed to take this advice on board is the fault of Tuivaiti alone.

In a sad footnote to the saga, Tuivaiti may not be able to take up her contract with the Thunderbirds after sustaining a serious knee injury in her final game of the season with the Pulse.

Netball NZ are doing the right thing in not making an exception for Laura Langman
Laura Langman's decision to re-sign with the Sunshine Coast Lightning next season means New Zealand's best player will be ineligible to play for the Silver Ferns in next year's Commonwealth Games.

This is a disappointing outcome for all, but you only need to look at the state of Australian Rugby to know Netball NZ's unwavering stance on their eligibility rules is the right move. In 2015 Australian Rugby relaxed its selection criteria to allow overseas-based players that have played more than 60 tests for the Wallabies are still eligible.

This has severely impacted their competitiveness at both international level, with the Wallabies winning just 40 per cent of their matches in 2016, and Super Rugby level.
Pinnacle year or not, Netball NZ need to hold their ground. Once they begin making exceptions for players - even those of the calibre of Langman - they will need to start making exceptions for others.

That Netball NZ have managed to retain every member of the Silver Ferns squad and national development squad shows their policy is working.

Laura Langman is doing the right thing
Conversely, Langman cannot be blamed for wanting to stay on the Sunshine Coast and continue to challenge herself.

The veteran midcourter has found a new lease on life across the Tasman, where the training and playing intensity is consistently high. It comes after a miserable final couple of seasons in New Zealand where she seemed to be undervalued in the Northern Mystics environment. (That a player with the work ethic and dedication of Langman did not fit in well at the Mystics said more about the Mystics environment than it did about Langman).

While Southby would no doubt desperately love to have Langman back for the Commonwealth Games, for the midcourt star to return to the fold just before next year's tournament was always going to be a risk timing-wise.

Given Langman already has two Commonwealth Games gold medals already to her name, perhaps Netball NZ may have more success luring the star midcourter back to for the 2019 World Cup. A world title remains the only gap in Langman's impressive CV.

Importing trouble
Australia's unlimited import allowance in the Super Netball competition is going to hurt their national programme.

Just three players from this year's grand final between the Sunshine Coast Lightning and GWS Giants are in the Diamonds 18-strong squad, with many of the star performers for each of the teams being international players.

Next year the number of imports will rise to 18 (if you count players like midcourter Chelsea Pitman, who is technically eligible to represent Australia, but has switched allegiances to England), creating a real danger of positional shortages at international level - particularly in the shooting end.

With almost a quarter of the playing contracts in Australia being taken up by imports, several young Australian players are now chasing opportunities in New Zealand after their pathway has been blocked back home.

Fowler-Reid leaving will singlehandedly make NZ league more competitive
After five seasons with the Southern Steel, Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid will next year take up a contract in Australian with the West Coast Fever. The 1.98m shooter is one of the real characters in the sport and will be a big loss to the ANZ Premiership, which is struggling to compete with the Aussie competition for star power.

But her departure from the Steel, who went through the season unbeaten, will level up the playing field significantly and make for a less predictable competition.

Don't panic about Maria Tutaia
The star shooter is yet to re-sign with the Northern Mystics, prompting speculation she may be ready to hang up her bib. She's not.