At the risk of sounding Orwellian, I fear it's time to embrace a sporting philosophy that may initially come across as a blueprint to create a dystopian state but which will, eventually, lead to a near-utopian one.

That trepidation stems from the plight of competitions nowadays where there is ample evidence that sport is wobbling on its axis.

The frightening thing is that the culture of sport has evolved from an imaginary state conjured up in the yesteryear to a place of instability and devoid of meaning.

Look around the country, never mind the world, and you will find enough disparities, at myriad levels, in social and competitive arenas.


So much so that people are subscribing to a cult of personality resigned to the fact that it's to their own detriment.

The latest example of sporting upheaval (or is it?) is the state of netball.

The word is the code's marquee competition, the ANZ Championship, is in the transitionary phase of becoming an inferior product to the Australian equivalent, Super Netball, because of player defections.

Goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, of Jamaica, has left inaugural champions Southern Steel after five seasons for the West Coast Fever franchise, in Perth, on the heels of former Silver Ferns veteran defender Leana de Bruin signing with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Even as I was writing this column, word came through of Central Pulse and spurned Silver Fern shooter Cathrine Tuivaiti opting to ply her trade with an Aussie club.

Is it a tragedy that an import player will no longer play for the Steel or that a pair of stars whose best days have passed are going to leave?

No. In fact it's a blessing that Fowler-Reid has flown the coop because the Steel had killed the suspense in the ANZ Championship only a round or two after it started.

That is not to say her absence is the panacea for all the championship's ailments. It simply means it was always playing second fiddle to its Aussie equivalent in the first place so the exodus of Fowler-Reid is a start to addressing the imbalance between franchises.


The other issue, of course, is Netball NZ's draconian rule that prevents players plying their trade overseas putting their hand up to represent the Silver Ferns.

But if you look high and low at popular codes and at varying levels, you'll find similar discrepancies.

Let's start with National Basketball League. The Wellington Saints rule the roost, give or take a season.

Cricket - the Canterbury Kings are always there or thereabouts in both men and women's competitions. At a club level here, Big Barrell Napier Technical Old Boys have had a stranglehold.

Netball - the Steel's dominance dates back to pre-ANZ Transtasman Championship days as Southland although the Waikato-Bay of Plenty franchise stole their thunder with the advent of the semi-professional era.

In Hawke's Bay, Thirsty Whale Otane ruled with an iron fist under the Kupa sisters after Physique 2000 enjoyed a similar purple patch under the Falcon dynasty.

Rugby - it's hard to go past the dominance of the Crusaders franchise in Super Rugby and Canterbury after Auckland ran riot in the bygone national provincial era.

In the Bay, the HB Insurance Ltd Napier Old Boys' Marist are steamrolling everyone in their path.

Soccer - Auckland City are sleepwalking their way to enviable global platforms even though other campaigners will not want to admit City's Stirling Sports Premiership losses in between are due to a lack of motivation or a clever marketing ploy to maintain interest in a national summer league where the outcome is obvious before it kicks off.

Napier City Rovers, Napier Marist and Taradale AFC have dictated terms in the elite Bay men and women's leagues for decades.

The sad reality is that such disparities become entrenched from an early age. You know, parents identify "fantastic coaches" and then jostle to ensure their kids make the cut.

Those who don't, find themselves in a second-tier cull and the next until you're left with a class of "unco" youngsters no one wants but some "good sorts" take them under their wings before the flogging ritual kicks in.

The answer lies in adopting a draft system where children in respective age, weight classes are called to a weekend of trials where, akin to netball, a grading system is administered.

Coaches from respective clubs should then, if need be through a ballot system, take turns to select players with superior skills all the way down to those who need to be developed.

Baseball Hawke's Bay has mooted such a system in line with what occurs at the NBL, MLB and AFL.

Instilling compatibility among teams in a league ensures children won't be disheartened because of futile week in, week out floggings that lose the meaning of playing never mind competing.

I know it smacks of social interference but the reality is while youngsters learn more from losses than wins there is a cut-off point where becoming whipping boys must destroy the soul.

Conversely winning by inflated margins becomes an exercise to feed egos and fuel mediocrity.

Only by providing a platform of compatibility, even for adults, will the entire team, club, province, code, franchise and country realise their potential.