Netball Australia has this morning confirmed that there will be no restrictions placed on the number of import athletes teams may contract for the new national netball league.
The new (yet to be named) league replaces the ANZ Championship, which enters its last ever Finals Series this weekend. Commencing in February 2017, the new standalone Australian competition will feature eight teams, including the current five Australian teams together with three new entrants.
Netball Australia’s decision to remove restrictions on import players has been driven by its clear objective to deliver the world’s best netball league.
In the ANZ Championship, all teams are able to contract one import player in their squad of 12. It is likely that core squads will be reduced to 10 players in the new competition.
Kate Palmer, Chief Executive of Netball Australia, said “The introduction of the new league and entry of three new teams provides an opportunity for more Australian athletes to play in the premier domestic competition.
“But if we want to be the best competition in the world, we need to look further afield, and welcome the world’s best athletes to our competition.
“We’d love to have athletes from all regions of the world participate. We’re certainly looking closely at Africa and Asia, as we saw some remarkable talent from those countries during last year’s Netball World Cup”.
Palmer doesn’t expect that the removal of import restrictions will translate to international athletes filling team rosters.
“The reality is that a high proportion of the world’s best players are Australian, and we expect that the majority of players in the new league will continue to come from our pathway. We’re ranked number one in the world and we have the greatest player depth of any other country.
“This decision (to open eligibility for the new league) has not been made in isolation. We’re investing more in the pathways and particularly underpinning competitions, including the ANL (Australian Netball League), which is the primary feeder competition to the premier national league.
Since Netball Australia announced its landmark broadcast deal with Nine Network and Telstra, together with the preferred bidders for the three new licenses – Collingwood Football Club, Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club, and Netball NSW (in a strategic alliance with the GWS Giants)– there has been unprecedented commercial, media and consumer interest in women’s sport. Netball tops all other sports for participation, and wants to set the benchmark for the all-important broadcast and match attendance metrics with its elite product.
Netball Australia is currently working with the existing and new teams, together with the Australian Netball Players Association, to finalise arrangements for the new league. It is expected that all eight team licenses will be locked in by the time the ANZ Championship winds up on 31 July, with final details on athlete contracting and player payments to be announced very shortly.