One of Australia’s best netballers, Gabi Simpson, says changes to injury time are impacting players’ “bodies and safety” and should be reviewed
Erin Delahunty

29 Jun 2016 - 8:28 AM  UPDATED 29 Jun 2016 - 8:20 AM

Under rule changes unveiled by netball’s international governing body late last year and introduced in the 2016 ANZ Championship, two-minute injury time-outs are banned, with hurt players now having to leave the court immediately – something the Queensland Firebirds midcourter thinks has changed the game.

“Firstly, it has definitely sped the game up, because there are no breaks any more. Also, usually, when you roll your ankle, all that’s required is a bit of extra taping, which used to be able to be done in that two-minute injury time, but now, with the new rules, that’s not an option, because you can’t call time unless you want to come off the court,” Simpson said.

And what elite athlete would choose to leave the field of play? Very few, the 176cm 23-year-old, who played her first game for the Australian Diamonds in the Constellation Cup series against New Zealand in October, said.

“It really depends on the individual and the depth of their team as to whether you’re in a position to come off the court … but it’s definitely the case that some players would feel obliged to push through it.” 

“In terms of our bodies and safety, it is a worry. I think it should be looked at (going into the new competition next year); just considered, to see if there is a better way to do it,” Simpson continued.

Simpson – who has a reputation for being a ‘beast in the gym’, which translates to explosive pace and endurance on the court – admits the old rules allowed teams to control tempo and stop momentum.

“There is always a fine line between taking advantage of tactical time-outs, which happened, and an injury, but I think it needs to be looked at, although I don’t know what the answer is.”

The first time Simpson and the rest of the Diamonds played under the new rules, during a tour of England in January, the change was obvious.

“It definitely sped the game up, that’s for sure. We found that straight away in England. It also meant we didn’t have that option of stopping an opponent’s momentum when they got on a roll. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing though, it means we as players need to find different ways to halt that momentum. That side of it is great, because it forces us to think on our toes,” Simpson said.

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Looking ahead to 2017 – which will see the end of the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship, a new all-Australian league, with new sides aligned to AFL and NRL clubs to replace it and a paid broadcast deal with Channel 9 and Telstra for primetime free-to-air coverage – Simpson is excited.

“Even though we don’t really know much about it yet, I am very trusting of the beings above to look after our game, and to make the right decisions for the sport. I am excited for netball to be taking such big steps in a new direction. It will hopefully lead to full professionalism in the future and more opportunities for younger players to get out on the court.”

Simpson is excited to see how it all unfolds. “There’s three new teams and no doubt lots of player movement, with some marquee players moving around,” she said.

Having played in three ANZ Championship finals in a row – two losing, in 2013 and 2014 and one winning, in last year’s heart-stopping, last-gasp victory over the NSW Swifts – Sydney-born Simpson hasn’t contemplated leaving Brisbane. “I really love the club and the culture.”

And she hasn’t fielded any calls from prospective new clubs, she said. “That’s illegal at the moment, isn’t it?” Simpson laughed. “I am pretty happy where I am. I haven’t really considered going anywhere.” 

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