THE Ballarat Football Netball League will expand beyond its football netball roots, with open and under-17 teams in Netball Victoria’s new Central Highlands Regional State League competition from next year.
The Red Onion BFNL and the Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League are the first football netball leagues from the region to join the competition, which will run from February 1 until April 5.
The Central Highlands RSL will also field entries from Eureka Netball Club from the Ballarat Netball Association, along with the Wimmera Netball Association.
Netball Victoria competitions co-ordinator Alex Poulton said expressions of interest from other clubs and associations were still being sought.
“We’d like to have seven teams in each of the divisions – open and under-17 – but we’d be happy to take more,” Netball Victoria competitions coordinator Alex Poulton says.
“The Central Highlands area we think will be a great competition because there are strong netball associations in addition to the football netball leagues.”
The BFNL’s open team will be coached by Redan and BFL interleague coach Kate McMahon, while the under-17 team coach is yet to be announced.
BFNL operations manager Aaron Nunn said the teams would be virtual “interleague” squads with the best players from all its competing clubs.
“It will provide our elite players with a higher standard competition and it will be a fantastic thing for our interleague side,” Nunn says.
“It is something the elite players in our competition have been asking about for some time.”
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While the Ballarat Netball Association has not entered a side in the Central Highlands RSL due to scheduling clashes with UB Ballarat Pride and the Victorian Netball League, BNA coaches coordinator Annie McCartin said the BFNL’s decision to enter would be complementary to the BNA’s own netball programs.
“While Ballarat Pride players will not be available for the Victorian Regional Leagues due to other netball commitments we would definitely encourage other netballers to compete in it,” McCartin said.
“We see it is a pathway if you want to play in the Victorian Netball League, which is the next step below Trans Tasman. It is an opportunity for (BFNL) players to make their way into playing elite netball.”
Regional State Leagues were first introduced in Victoria’s north central region of Victoria in 2007, followed by the Eastern RSL (Gippsland) and Western RSL based in Warrnambool in 2008.
The RSL concept is intended to be pinnacle netball activity in each of region and provide a pathway for athletes and officials to complement the VNL.