• Renae Hallinan of the Vixens and Kimberley Green of the Swifts. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Netball’s new league in 2017 - Three additional teams linked to football clubs, a breakaway all-Australian league, broadcast rights, player movements, eligibility rules and salaries - it all comes down to the most viable scenario for Netball Australia.
Sarah Leach

22 Apr 2016 - 7:36 AM  UPDATED 22 Apr 2016 - 7:37 AM

Expect a new-look league for Netball in 2017

Throw in three new teams, turf our neighbours across the ditch, and strike a rock-star TV rights deal – all to create “the best Netball league in the world”.

New teams: footy club mergers and inter-state rivalries

Three new teams to season 2017 will be announced in May this year, with plenty of links to football clubs.

In the AFL, there’s rumours that Geelong FC, Collingwood FC and GWS Giants have all submitted interested, while in the NRL, the Penrith Panthers.

“I think having an alignment with an AFL or Rugby League team could be a good thing so that’s something that we’re exploring and some of the state bodies are exploring as well,” Kate Palmer, Netball Australia CEO said.

And having interstate rivalries will no doubt sway where offers to new clubs will go – NSW, Victoria or Queensland - where the Swifts, Vixens and Firebirds exist in states traditionally abundant with emerging talent.

“Home derbies are fantastic in other codes; they have that opportunity which is pretty exciting,” Palmer adds.

TV rights

Palmer says that to start with, decisions on the set up of the new Netball League will be based around a secured TV rights deal.

“What we’re trying to do is create a high profile for the league and we’ll do that through the addition of more teams so it’s more commercially viable,” Palmer said.

“We would like to be on all platforms, so certainly pay (TV), free to air and digital platforms.

“We are in the middle of negotiations for our 2017. As we expected there’s lots of interest, so it’s a matter of reaching a conclusion, so we’re a little way off that.

“The (current) league wouldn’t exist but for Sky Television,” Palmer said.

While Fox Sports does pay a production fee for the netball coverage, it is Sky TV has been the biggest supporter of the league since it’s inception, and Palmer says Australia needs to actually stand up and be counted in terms of what Australia is bringing to the table around broadcast. 

Breakaway Australian competition

“The reality is we need to provide more opportunity for Australian athletes, and create a great Australian product that the broadcasters are interested in,” Palmer said.

With eight teams, similar to the Commonwealth Bank Trophy national competition eight years ago, there should be more opportunities for emerging talent.

“There’s 5 (teams) now and a lot of young athletes are not hitting that ANZ Championship court soon enough and that’s our issue in terms of the depth of talent we have in Australia.

“Now the league is becoming professional you’ve got imports blocking spaces and you’ve now got older athletes who no longer want to represent the Diamonds team or athletes who are not in the national squad. It does mean that there’s fewer opportunities for young athletes,” Palmer said.

Where does this leave New Zealand?

“Certainly we will continue to have some of relationship with New Zealand and what that looks like is still to be determined,” Palmer said.

“If we have a conference model that there’s consistency because we need to look at consistent rules, consistent time frames, consistent eligibility rules.

“That’s what we’re trying to do at the moment as a priority, we are working with netball New Zealand, and I speak to the CEO weekly.

“We’re working together on getting the best possible outcome for both countries and that’s very depended for broadcasters, and both sides across the ditch,” Palmer said.

Pay increase for players and staff?

“In this next round I don’t think we’ll be significantly better off, we we’re hoping to be better off but it’s around the financially sustainability of the league

“So where there’s increasing (TV) rights fees we will definitely want the players to earn more money,” Palmer said.

New teams and player movements

All players are under contract until after this year’s Grand Final, when they are officially allowed to talk to the new teams should they like to move, or be “poached”.

“They’ll (new teams) pay on an equal footing and certainly a lot of work has been done around that too because we want these teams to be competitive we don’t want them to not have the right athletes.

The reality is that it’s going to take 2-3 years before we build the depth of talent again.

“If we want the best competition in the world then we need to have the best athletes in the world.

“Again we’ve done a lot of work on our depth chats, looked at what athletes that we bring from overseas which is really critical; we’ve got the New Zealand captain playing for the Swifts which is in itself unusual,” Palmer said.

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