FASTER, fitter, stronger – netball needed this revamp to reinforce its place in a fast-evolving female sporting landscape. Netball has to become faster, fitter and stronger to compete.
Traditionally the premier women’s sport in Australia, and still the highest participation sport for women, this is a boom time for non-traditional women’s sports in breaking barriers, clamouring for greater media attention, demanding promotional space and setting the tone in ongoing debate for gender equity.
Netball is out to play a key role in shaping this as a leader in women’s sport and so, it is time for Super Netball to deliver.
This is a revamped marquee national competition, starting Saturday night, that turns attention back to Australia amid a pivotal time for women’s sport, after 10 years spanning the competition in a trans-Tasman format.
Netball had to create a buzz while rival team sporting codes like soccer, cricket and the new AFLW are building hype and drawing attention that women’s sport has rarely felt before.
The best part is there is room for them all – and each sport is pushing each other to be better, fitter and stronger. Netball already stamped a benchmark in professionalism with a landmark pay deal for its athletes last September.
Former national defender Keeley Devery said the growth and profile-building of the new AFLW was a good thing. Her new mission, as Channel Nine’s head of netball, is to drive innovative coverage while capturing the speed, ferocity and athleticism in the game to tap into a wider audience.
"I think it's all positive, I really do. It's just awesome to think that so many people want to watch,” Devery told Fairfax Media this week.
“I'm trying not to get too excited, but based around the buzz that's been around this league and the buzz around women's sport in general, I can't see how it can't do well."
The fact Australian football powerhouse Collingwood is joining the mix means Super Netball is big business. This is a club with a ready-made Magpie Army and iconic black-and-white trademarks that demand to be taken seriously in any sporting arena.
And it will be great for promoting women’s sport.
Melbourne boasted two national league teams in the trans-Tasman predecessor – Phoenix and Kestrels. This time, adding Collingwood alongside Vixens helps tap into a whole new sporting audience: Magpies who had rarely paid attention to netball, and everyone else wanting to barrack against them.
GWS Giants have launched a second Sydney team and and NRL club Melbourne Storm is backing a team on its Sunshine Coast base.
Super Netball promises more statistics and more insight into the game to help educate a new audience about the game’s technicalities and to add a new dimension for the game’s devotees.
Ultimately, netball’s strength in women’s sport will come down to what the nation’s best netballers serve up on court. Guaranteed it will be fierce. But if it can inspire a young girl in new role models, to realise what is possible, Super Netball will be shooting goals.