Decorated netballers push Ballarat Pride's bid to stay in VBL

DECORATED Australian netballers Natasha Chokljat, Elissa Kent and Liz Boniello are committed to keeping Ballarat in the Victorian Netball League.

Steve Moneghetti. FILE IMAGE

Steve Moneghetti. FILE IMAGE

Chokljat, Kent (nee Macleod) and Boniello are named as specialist coaches in Ballarat’s proposal to win back a licence, submitted to the VNL by the 5.30pm deadline on Monday.

The submission also puts forward a rebranded club name, Ballarat Sovereigns, the Pride of Ballarat, paying homage to its lengthy state league history as Ballarat Pride.

It is a bold move for Ballarat. A working group featuring the city’s major sporting bodies worked contacts to secure the trio: Chokljat is a Melbourne Phoenix championship player, former Australian Diamond and former ANZ Championship player with Melbourne Vixens and Southern Steel; Kent is a 2011 Queensland Firebirds championship player, former Australian Fast5 captain and stepped down from the Melbourne Vixens this season on maternity leave; and Liz Boniello is one of Netball Victoria’s Legends of the Game, a former Melbourne Phoenix co-captain, a former Australian player and is known for her ABC netball commentary.

Ballarat is unable to name official coaching appointments because the club is still playing out the VNL season as Ballarat Pride with coaches in place.

Pride was the only club in the 10-club league axed in licence reviews this season and has been forced to re-apply against likely strong bids from Bendigo and powerful metropolitan bases.

A working group that includes AFL Goldields, North Ballarat Roosters, Ballarat Basketball, the City of Ballarat, Ballarat Pride and the Ballarat, Wendouree and Central Highlands netball associations has plotted a complete restructure from the court up.

The proposal details an organisational board to feature each body in the working party and that this be separate to an operational group at player and team level.

Ballarat Netball Association would remain formally aligned to the club. Well-known Ballarat Olympian Steve Moneghetti will be the club’s official ambassador.

Ballarat Pride spokesman Jordan O’Keefe said all recommendations in the submission could be altered or improved should a licence be granted.

O’Keefe said support for the bid included letters from Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight, New South Wales Swifts netballer Sarah Wall, who has strong ties to the region and has worked closely with Ballarat juniors, Ballarat mayor Joshua Morris and Hampden, Western Region and Wimmera netball bodies.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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