Monday, 14 May 2012

Is New Zealand over-extended in the ANZ netball championships?

Are the five teams from New Zealand currently battling it out on court financially unsustainable?

If you look at the results to date, our showing is not particularly impressive. However, New Zealand needs to do better in the training and development of its netballers. The Australians have a national academy and training systems implemented. Apparently Government resources are also allocated to sporting venues. New Zealand netballers, on the other hand,  have to make do the best they can. Yet we expect them to be in with more than a fighting chance in the competition.

New Zealand audiences are keen: look at Stadium Southland when the Southern Steel is playing and Porirua's Te Rauparaha arena sold out for the recent Magic-Pulse fixture. The crowd support for netball is all there. Unfortunately this does not seem to be expressed in appropriate national support and funding for these great female role models of New Zealand sport. If there are some part-time coaching schools for national development, Silver Ferns and provincial sides, perhaps these could be doubled in time terms. We need to look at ways and means of making this happen. We cannot expect them to do us proud, without investing in their skills and fitness. Australian teams always look so fit; in a few earlier games some of our teams looked "run-out" before they had even started. Yet the skills are there. Cutting the number of teams in the competition will shave off the potential, without addressing the problem.

Consider the bright spots which we might not have if the competition shrank to four New Zealand teams. Think of the development of such promising athletes as Ellen Halpenny (Canterbury Tactix) whom Liz Ellis enthused about in the recent Firebirds v Tactix game;  Kayla Cullen from the Mystics, Julianna Naopu (and more recently Elias Shadrock) from the Magic. Would all of these promising young athletes have "made the cut" if there were only four teams. Perhaps Cullen had already done enough last year, but I'm not sure about the others.

Pruning out the up and coming athletes which a scale-back to four teams might result in would be a terrible idea anyway if the Magic's dismal showing this year is anything to go by. Here is a team loaded with Silver Ferns, who could not get their act together. I think an analysis of what happened there would be instructive. What did they do that was different from previous years?

The New Zealand media need to do their bit too. Invaders from another planet might well think that women can't do sport, or only in a limited way. We have pages devoted to the games, and training ad nauseum of the Blues, the Hurricanes etc, but not enough devoted to female athletes. New Zealand women have excellent triathlon form (along with the men), but coverage is spasmodic and uncertain.

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