COLLINGWOOD supporters at a netball game? Magpies supporting their own black-and-whites in a new code?
When the most powerful sporting club in Australia bids for a new national netball league licence, you know this is big news that must be heard.
Netball Australia this week launched a new national league, in a split from trans-Tasman competition with New Zealand, with AFL clubs Collingwood, GWS Giants and NRL franchise Melbourne Storm as preferred licencees. Storm plans to launch its netball arm in partnership with University of the Sunshine Coast, with competition set to sport two teams in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland.
If successful, Collingwood has the potential to change the position of netball across the state.
Netball has long held a place in football clubs across Ballarat and the Central Highlands. Clubs offer families a chance to play together and support each other. Our clubs are already working to diversify into the booming popularity of youth girls and now women’s football, driven by the AFL.
We have plenty to learn from the Collingwood model.
Magpies chief executive officer Gary Pert spoke extensively to media about sharing resources, ideas and innovations across the whole club’s branding, which the Pies hope would also feature an AFL women’s team by next year. Our clubs already do this to varying degrees where the tone is usually set at the top between senior football and netball coaches. Integrating youth girls and women’s football is still a new concept for grassroots clubs too.
Finally, in Collingwood, we could have an elite example for our football-netball clubs to follow. This includes facilities.
Collingwood’s Olympic Park headquarters have long had the capacity to expand the brand as a professional multi-platform club with separate change facilities. Most of our netballers are still left out on the cold.
Lake Wendouree was rapt to see its long-held dream for new rooms start to tangibly take shape with the start of construction at CE Brown Reserve on Wednesday. This will cater for much-needed room and upgrades for the grounds football and cricket tenants but, importantly, allow change rooms and a place for netballers to prepare and debrief for matches – a rare luxury in our football-netball leagues.
Funding is key to improving this as a standard. Increased national spotlight on netball, backed by powerful voices like Collingwood have the potential to demand serious politicial attention for the highest female participation sport in Australia.
Netball Australia struck a game-changing five-year broadcast deal with Channel 9 and Telstra that will put the national netball league in prime time and change the way we watch the game, analysing player skill and athleticism, in the same vein Kerry Packer revolutionalised cricket in the 1970s. Emphasis from all parties is for women and men to want to religiously follow the sport.
Strengthening netball’s elite ranks is a game-changer for grassroots clubs, which ultimately are the foundation for creating future champions.
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