Major Ballarat sports organisations rally to keep Pride in VNL

MAJOR sporting bodies have joined forces in a bid to keep Ballarat Pride in the Victorian Netball League.

A working group that includes representatives from North Ballarat Roosters, Ballarat Basketball Association, AFL Goldfields and Ballarat, Wendouree and Central Highlands netball associations has been piecing together a VNL application with Ballarat Pride and the City of Ballarat.

Together, they have pulled apart and proposed a complete restructure, from administration to team operations, to the existing Ballarat Pride model that was axed from the VNL in early April.

Their deadline is 5pm Monday. AFL Goldfields general manager Rod Ward said the focus was to ensure the region had a strong pathway for promising netballers.

“For us, it was simple. Across the competitions we administer there are 3000 netballers and it’ s growing,” Ward said.

“It’s really important to give a pathway, when in Ballarat we have state league pathways like the Victorian Football League and TAC Cup for footballers, the Red Devils in soccer and Miners and Rush in basketball.

“Putting a consortium together of various sporting bodies as a collective stand, we feel, is more viable representation than a single organisation.”

Ward said there had been some initial consideration on whether AFL Goldfields should launch a VNL bid but it was in the greater interest of the region to have a separate state league body.

He said pooling various strengths and perspectives in a working group had been exciting.

North Ballarat chief executive officer Mark Patterson said the Roosters were more than happy to offer what expertise and experience they could.

Patterson said all Ballarat state league sporting clubs faced similar challenges as regional contenders and it was vital to stick together for support.

“Netball is a good example of a sport with so many playing,” Patterson said.

“It is important to provide a pathway for those locally to achieve their goals in the sport they choose without having to move interstate or to Melbourne.

“We can only do that if there is access to representation at that level competition.”

The working group aims to position a Ballarat VNL bid that will be strong enough to compete beyond the three-year licence on offer.

Ballarat Pride was the only club in the 10-club league not to have its licence renewed in a review this year.

Aside from Geelong Cougars, Pride is the only regional team in the league but a strong campaign is building in Bendigo.

Ballarat Pride has also received support from netball associations in Warrnambool, the Wimmera and VNL clubs.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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