Pride's successor out to make a splash in netball league

THERE is a school of sporting philosophy that says a competitor should only wear bright shoes or loud outfits if they can back it up with performance.

Natasha Chokljat is a big name to add to the Sovereigns’ list. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Natasha Chokljat is a big name to add to the Sovereigns’ list. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Kind of like the kid with fluoro footy boots – any slight kicking mistake is remarkably stark, even in muddy conditions.

This columnist prefers the school of thought that bright sporting apparel can build confidence – you feel good wearing it and with that confidence, results can follow (sometimes it can even distract a rival).

Either way, a shiny branding demands attention.

Ballarat Sovereigns are in that spotlight now.

A new name, a new structure, new uniforms and new state league netball representation for our city.

Everyone will take note.

There will be intrigue.

Ballarat Pride, a Ballarat Netball Association-made club, had its Victorian Netball League licence axed in April but was allowed to play out the season.

The VNL was supposed to have answered Pride’s dreams – and it did, in a way, allowing the city a pathway to championship division netball after powerful seasons that fell just shy of promotion. But Pride could only muster five championship division wins in six seasons. 

Intrigue and speculation will be fixed firmly on determining how much has changed. Losing, and losing heavily, is not an option. A big on-court impact is expected.

For Ballarat to win a new VNL licence, drastic change was needed.

In a first for Ballarat netball history, all associations in the region will be actively involved in a VNL program.

The city and its sporting community pooled resources and knowledge together to form a completely new club, almost from scratch. Each made a commitment to follow through on an operational level.

Networking and rich contacts helped to lure Australian-capped netballers Natasha Chokljat, Liz Boniello and Elissa Kent into specialist coaching roles.

As a package, this created a flashy submission that won Netball Victoria and the VNL’s attention.

Now comes the part where Ballarat Sovereigns, like the kid with the flash footy boots, must back it up.

Just to earn a new VNL licence is a massive win for Ballarat.

This city is a huge sporting hub for western Victoria – some even label Ballarat the capital of western Victoria – and this city takes great pride in fielding teams against the state’s best across a huge variety of sports, including Australian rules, soccer, basketball, hockey and athletics.

We need a pathway for the city’s premier women’s sport – netball.

The Sovereigns’ bid, just like our marquee teams, was in itself pitted against strong, cashed-up metropolitan rivals. And it won.

This licence carries great responsibility because this is not just a win for Ballarat but a win for promising netballers across western Victoria.

The Hampden, Warrnambool and Wimmera regions have directed talent Ballarat’s way for a long time. These were regions that also specifically offered letters of support to the Sovereigns’ bid and must not be overlooked in the excitement of forming a new club.

The Sovereigns have won the responsibility to foster such talent to develop netball across western Victoria as a whole.

Just like all Ballarat marquee sporting teams, everything players learn and fine-tune in the Sovereigns program, they can take back to grassroots netball ranks each time they line up for weekend club or association netball.

Sovereigns players will be role models for the region’s entire junior netball base.

You only need to venture to the MARS Minerdome for a Ballarat Rush and Miners basketball double-header to see the prolific autograph signing players do, swamped by adoring fans post-match, win or lose.

Key sporting, business and political bodies across the city have put a lot of time and effort into ensuring this important pathway does not disappear.

They will be keenly assessing the Sovereigns on and off the court.

Importantly, this club starts with their complete and active support.

Sovereigns is a great name, drawing on the region’s gold fields heritage, but it also suggests a supreme ruler on the netball court.

This is far from showing off or an overstatement though, if the Sovereigns can back it up come game day.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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