CHAMPION Melbourne Vixens netballer Tegan Caldwell says Ballarat’s exit from the Victorian Netball League would be a setback for junior netballers in the region.
However, she said young netballers won’t have their potential careers cut off if there is no Ballarat side in the state competition.
Ms Caldwell was at Ballarat Grammar School on Thursday as part of a Netball Victoria sponsored visit to the region. She will spend the next few weeks preparing to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games with the Australian Diamonds.
Ballarat’s future in the VNL remains in limbo after Netball Victoria did not renew Ballarat Pride’s licence for the league.
Ms Caldwell said that while Ballarat Pride had provided an opportunity for Ballarat-based netballers to play in front of elite level coaches, there would be other opportunities for those players willing to travel.
“Ballarat Pride was definitely a stepping stone in the VNL and, with all the elite coaches watching, there was a pathway for young netballers,” Ms Caldwell said.
“However, there is an opportunity with other clubs. I was from Geelong but played with the City West Falcons, who were the Hume City Falcons back then. It makes it more difficult but there are still opportunities.”
Ms Caldwell grew up in Anglesea, where she played all of her junior netball from the age of seven.
She then made her way to the Geelong Football Netball League, playing representative netball for the GFL.
The 25-year-old goal attack said football netball (netball competitions associated with country football leagues) was another way junior netballers could progress towards elite competition.
“All I mainly played when I was young was footy netball,” she said. “There are plenty of VNL girls who play footy netball. I did it until I was no longer allowed to.”
Ballarat Grammar senior netball coach and former Ballarat Pride player Katie Williams said she was concerned about netball’s development in the region without a Ballarat club in the VNL.
“I think it is hugely detrimental,” she said.
“We have always had such a high quality junior netball program. If Ballarat doesn’t have a licence, all those players will have to go to Melbourne. It is possible but it is a huge commitment.”