The netball world is holding its breath, wondering what the game’s premier competition, the ANZ Championship, will look like in 2017. With an expression of interest process to find three new teams now complete, netball’s governing bodies in Australia and New Zealand are expected to make an announcement about the shape of the league and broadcast deal next week. Former player and coach, turned netball analyst Sue Gaudion weighs in with her view.
Sue Gaudion

12 May 2016 - 6:38 AM  UPDATED 12 May 2016 - 6:38 AM

Like thousands of netball fans on both sides of the Tasman, I want to know what the future holds for the ANZ Championship – the best netball competition in the world. What will it look like? How many teams will there be? Will there be more Australian teams? Will they be aligned with AFL or NRL clubs? Will the conference system stay in place? Will New Zealand even be part of the league?

It has taken so long for the two governing bodies to come out with a plan for next year that speculation is now reaching fever pitch. Some of the frustrated rumblings coming out of New Zealand, including that maybe the Kiwis should walk away from the competition altogether, haven’t helped. There’s clearly tense negotiations going, between what Australia wants and New Zealand wants.

Nine years ago, when both the countries sat down at the table to form the championship, they wanted pretty much the same thing. But now, down the road, with the gulf between the Aussie and Kiwi franchises growing – and keeping in mind a New Zealand team has won just one of the ANZ premierships – they want different things.

It’s hard to cast judgement from a distance and I’m not privy to the negotiations, but I would hazard a guess that Australia is saying that because the Aussie sides are so dominant and we feel like our depth of talent is greater, we should be entitled to more teams. Maybe that’s selfish, maybe it’s not. And New Zealand is entitled to feel how it wants about that. 

I would absolutely love to see a trans-Tasman competition remain, but there would need to be additional teams from Australia and definitely a drop in the number of teams from New Zealand. That’s the best scenario in my opinion. But clearly this may not be how Netball New Zealand view their best-case scenario.

The biggest question moving forward is, do we end up hosting the best netball competition, with a spread of players from across Australia, New Zealand and other nations or is it an Australian-only league? Maybe it ends up something like the English Premier League model, where, yes England technically hosts the competition, but it attracts the best talent in the world. And all the best players want to be there. If that’s the case, you need to think about a salary cap, trade period and whether there is a need to place restrictions on imports. 

Somewhere, somehow, there needs to be a balance struck, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Australia to say we should be able to get more players into that elite system. For many years, Australia has had a solid pathway and there are players waiting to come through. That hasn’t necessarily been the case across the ditch, although that is changing with their new Beko domestic netball league.

If I was New Zealand looking at it, I would think, OK, we may lose a side or two, but we’re still there and that underpins everything. Then if Kiwi sides have success over the next five years, they’re in a really strong position to sit back down again and demand another franchise. I think that’s one way the competition potentially grows. 

We all know the New Zealand broadcasters were the ones who put their hands in their pockets for the rights and that has benefited Australia no end. Australia should be grateful that they allowed us to revel in the growth of that deal, but now it seems the right time for us to stand on our own two feet.

I know the governing bodies want to time their approach and their punch – and hopefully not distract from what is shaping up to be a sensational season 2016 – but the netball-loving public is waiting.

Sue Gaudion is one of the most respected names in international netball, having worked as a coach, broadcaster and announcer for more than 20 years. A former national representative, Gaudion has coached Singapore and Sri Lanka’s national sides and also headed up the Australian Institute of Sport’s netball program. Gaudion has coached in the UK Superleague and also led the West Coast Fever in the inaugural season of the ANZ Championship in 2008. She is an ANZ Championship telecast commentator and Fox Sports netball analyst.