BALLARAT is missing out on being part of an incredible chapter in Australian netball when we deserve to share in it. Instead, we are pretty much ignored.
Sovereigns launch their Victorian Netball League campaign this week. They represent us and yet only get one home game for us to cheer them on this season.
It is a disappointing blow for the Sovereigns, who had hoped to build on the two Ballarat games they hosted last year in a competition that has stated its intentions to grow the regional game.
Unfortunately, Ballarat home games have been a sticking point for more than a decade, dating right back into past state league forms – even though this city repeatedly shows up in strong, parochial crowds.
What adds the extra sting this season, comes from the amazing transformation at the game’s highest ranks.
Super Netball action starts this weekend. Set for a second season, the giant leaps in the sport’s professionalism in top Australian ranks has already made a massive impact on the world stage. This can only be for the better of the whole game.
Look to the Commonwealth Games and England’s shock one-goal upset against Australia before the Diamonds’ home crowd on the Gold Coast a fortnight ago. Rose Helen Housby, who scored the winning goal, and star keeper Geva Mentor headline English Super Netball imports.
This is a competition boasting the best players in the world in battle, pushing the game to new limits each week amid in the intensity for which Australian play has been feared.
This has sting for Ballarat because it is a very tangible pathway for our players to experience and our sporting community to watch.
About five years ago, we could anticipate home games featuring the likes of international Mwai Kumwenda, known for her flexibility and reach under the post, playing against the then-Ballarat Pride.
Kumwenda was then vying to push her game to the next level. On the Gold Coast, she was part of the Malawian team that pulled New Zealand apart.
This is the type of player we are largely missing out on. These are the matches that truly inspire our netballers to challenge their games more.
State league netball has traditionally been predominantly based at State Netball Hockey Centre in Melbourne. We need to see our Sovereigns more.
Played mostly on Wednesday nights, Ballarat players have long made the trek – after school or work – for the chance to play at the highest levels they can.
Constantly being knocked back, it is hard to feel truly included in the league.
Netball Victoria told The Courier in February this season’s sole home game was due to unfortunate timing and a heavy scheduling (VNL must fit in with Super Netball, Australian Netball League and international commitments).
After more than a decade of similar reasoning, when is a good time to play more often in Ballarat?
Works have started on building a 3000-seat arena that will showcase the Sovereigns. VNL, the time should be now.