Earlier this week, Netball Australia announced the Australian Netball League would grow in 2013, with Netball Victoria submitting a second team to contest in the domestic competition: the Victorian Flames.
Nswswifts.com.au caught up with Robert Wright, who was at the helm of the Netball NSW Blues for the 2012 ANL season and delivered NSW their first ANL title with the Netball NSW Waratahs in 2011. Rob offers his thoughts on what it will mean for the competition to have a second Victorian team…
Having been involved in the ANL competition since its inception in 2008, it’s exciting to hear the news that the Victorian Flames will be included as a second Victorian team in 2013.
Firstly it provides more players with the opportunity to play at this level and also more games for all teams; a win-win scenario for Australian Netball.
Originally set up as a competition to bridge the gap between State League and the ANZ Championship, the ANL competition has been a perfect development opportunity for athletes to experience coming up against top-level players at a domestic level.
From the beginning (2008), Netball NSW has opted to enter two teams into the competition, with the Netball NSW Waratahs and Netball NSW Blues contesting in all five ANL seasons. In recent years, a strategic decision has been made to use the Netball NSW Blues team for a unique development opportunity for young and up-and-coming athletes.
A number of athletes selected for the 2012 Blues side had only been exposed to contesting at National Netball Championships, and had rarely had the opportunity to pit themselves against older players – let alone ANZ Championship athletes.
Therein lies my defining reason why the ANL competition provides perfect development opportunities to younger athletes.
State Team players are only exposed to their own age group, unless they play in higher State League divisions. By having a development side like the NNSW Blues, you are exposing these athletes to the rigours of playing senior netball; the training, the travel, the speed matches are played, the physicality.
The benefits of this strategic decision of having a development side won’t be seen overnight, but already the strategy is showing some positives with five players from the 2011 NNSW Blues side taking the court for the NNSW Waratahs in 2012, helping the team to a Runners-Up finish.
Another example is the current Australian 21/U squad; every athlete in the junior national squad has had exposure to ANL and/or ANZ Championship level of competition. That exposure has created a team with such incredible depth, with recent results at the International Netball Series and Caribbean Tour showing they are benefitting greatly from the exposure they are receiving on a weekly basis in these competitions.
The ANL Competition continues to go from strength to strength. Next year provides another opportunity for Australia’s Diamonds of the future to showcase their skill and talent – I cannot wait to see all the players in action.
Bring on 2013!