New Zealand's six netball franchises have been thrown a financial lifeline as they prepare for the upcoming ANZ Premiership season.
Teams have had to call on volunteers in recent weeks following drastic staffing cuts due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with some assistant coaches and management let go, but offering to return without payment.
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However, Sport NZ this week announced a $2.2 million boost to Netball New Zealand to support the running of the ANZ Premiership, and Netball NZ CEO Jennie Wyllie confirmed some of the money was set to assist franchises in rehiring support staff, and had come at a vital time for the sport.
"Like any business, we've had to pare back to make sure that we can live within our means. That's been really important for us to do that and that's impacted people as well," Wyllie told D'Arcy Waldegrave on Newstalk ZB.
"So this allows us to bring back, whether it be the physio or the assistant coach, all of those support services that you wrap around a team and it allows us to be able to put them around the squads."
Wyllie said the funding would also help support the players.
"Many of them are either students or they have other employment so an extension to our season has impacted their personal lives, and it's really important that we can support them through that and then provide some cost relief to the teams," she said.
"We're delighted about that because all of our netballers are the heart and soul of our game so it's great to be able to get them back on board."
Earlier this week, the Herald reported that matches could yet be played without paying spectators, even under alert Level 1.
Additionally, games hosted outside of Auckland appeared unlikely as organisers pushed to future-proof the competition in case the country were to return to a higher alert level.
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Wyllie confirmed that had been a core focus in their planning of the competition, but said they were working on ways to be more flexible.
"We know how quickly we went from one Covid case in New Zealand to complete lockdown," she said.
"We are looking at options for what this new Level 1 might mean and once we understand what the parameters are around Level 1, we will be able to see if it's viable for us to perhaps look at some regional games or look at a final series where our fans can come in and really celebrate netball with us.
"We're looking at all options, we understand our fans are like that third team on the court, they're really important to us. So watch this space and let's see what we can do in the next couple of weeks."
The ANZ Premiership restarts on June 19.