BALLARAT Pride head coach Jo Dash said the club had been working closely with community partners to reclaim a Victorian Netball League licence for the region.
Pride met with the VNL on Friday night – the first chance to seek feedback since its axing in early April.
Dash said it was going to be tough to earn back a spot in the 10-club competition, particularly with strong bids forming in Bendigo and from metropolitan clubs ahead of the May 26 deadline.
She said there had been great support for Pride and maintaining an open dialogue with interested groups, including major sponsors Federation University and Ballarat Netball Association, was crucial to rebuilding and moving forward with a new structure to meet VNL demands.
One key area the VNL highlighted for improvement was Pride’s daily training environment.
Dash said Pride was told clubs needed a minimum of five group training sessions per week, on top of match day, which was a big ask considering squad members travel from as far as Warrnambool and many from Melbourne for training already.
Dash said there was also a fine balance between recruiting imports and developing homegrown talent – an issue all Ballarat state league sports clubs faced in Melbourne-based competition – and finding imports willing to travel for a demanding training regime was tough.
Even retired ANZ Championships defender Joh Curran, a Pride export, found it hard to pass up offers from strong clubs in Melbourne, where she now lives.
Pride was the only VNL club to not have its licence renewed under a league review this year.
Netball Victoria released a statement that 10 interested parties attended an informational night for the one spot up for grabs to play in the competition the next three seasons.
Pride is allowed to reapply and Dash said the club was left in no uncertainty that it must change.
It has been a tough journey for Pride since the restructured three-tier state league competition was launched in 2009.
Pride notched up five championship division wins in its first five seasons and remains winless 12 rounds into its sixth.
The last championship triumph was in round three last season against Geelong Cougars.
Victory in the final fixture of 2012 broke a 45-game losing streak dating back to May 2010.
This season Pride players Katherine Dicker (19 and under) and Emma Ryan (21 and under) earned Victorian selection, invited to trial from their VNL performances, and division one recruit Jane Costello was recalled to the Fijian international team.
Dash, who spearheaded Pride’s first state league campaign in 2005 and was instrumental in winning an inaugural VNL licence, said Pride had always been about offering a pathway.
“The landscape has changed and we need to keep working for what are the best pathways for regional talent,” Dash said.
“What we have achieved on the journey is amazing.
“Players that have been good in local competition have had a chance to learn something every week from the best.”
Netball Victoria expects to announce its 10th VNL licensee in July.