After epic final, what’s next for netball?
Front page, back page, a souvenir poster and stories all over radio and television.
The Queensland Firebirds are dominating news and sports media after creating netball history with a double extra-time thriller over arch rivals the NSW Swifts to become the first team to win a back-to-back championship title in the final Trans Tasman League (ANZ Championship) in front of record 10 000 strong crowd in Brisbane.
The team celebrations and deserved adulations are still underway but what’s next for the sport?
Player movements, poaching, contract negotiations, offers of big money, endorsement deals and salary caps!
Previously netball has not attracted much out-of-competition coverage, but starting TODAY get ready for a whole new ball game, this off-season is going to be the most exciting and interesting ever.
The Aussies are going it alone for the 2017 season having signed a landmark broadcast five year deal with Channel Nine, (the network has even appointed a Head of Netball in former Australian player Keeley Devery) ditching the kiwis and welcoming three new teams backed by football clubs Collingwood, The Melbourne Storm and Greater Western Sydney to form a new-look domestic competition and embark on a new era in the sport.
The ban on contacting players to recruit for next season was supposed to end today, but delays with formalising the new look competition means no player contracts can be signed.
Team participation agreements and importantly the salary cap is still unclear.
This hold-up isn’t a great way to start a new chapter.
Players are in limbo. Where to go, what to sign for, how much and when?
The teams especially the three additions will be finding it tough to attract sponsors, that will want to know what players and coaches are on on the roster and what benefits that will mean to their brand.
Rest assured the three new teams have been having ‘chats’ to the current stars of the ANZ Championship and the established teams are informally working behind the scenes to secure their roster.
The current salary cap is $270 000 so previously in the off season players have had to return to their regular lives. A part time job and university in most cases or for some a full time role.
Except for a select few netball didn’t pay enough to make it a year round vocation.
That is set to change and the landscape of the sport will never be the same.
Little girls can now dream of playing netball for a living.
So what about the history making champions the Firebirds?
Coach Roselee Jencke is secured, but the first in the sights of recruiters will be the Firebirds’ bench players.
Loyalty will count for a lot but the lure of playing in the best competition in the country will be hard to resist.
Where previously money was a secondary consideration hefty pay increases and other lucrative enticements will now be huge factors in determining player movements.
Most of the current stars of the game do not have managers or agents, so negotiating contracts are going to be skills they need to learn or pay for pretty quickly.
Will Laura Geitz stay for another season?
For the opportunity to see what the future of netball looks like from the inside I think she’ll stay in the purple. It’s no secret she wants to start a family but when she does retire she will want to say goodbye to her extended family of fans and players from the court.
Will star shooter Romelda Aiken, who had to rise above more than her height to help win yesterday’s title, stay in Queensland?
This amazing athlete has grown in off-court confidence over the past few seasons and while she may be tempted to spread her wings to test herself away from the nest I think she will stay.
Will the Firebirds’ players like Kim Ravaillion and Gabi Simpson who hale from other states, especially NSW and Victoria where there will be two teams, be tempted to return home?
I think if the money is right they’ll stay here too.
All of these questions can just as easily be attached to any of the teams.
Will we see some Queenslanders returning from interstate teams for instance? Imagine Victorian born Sharni Layton playing for The Storm.
But all is still conjecture, unsure and unclear.
What we will see for certain is a new batch of star imports, especially from Jamaica and England. There’s no limits to imports.
New Zealand has put in place a rule that only players competing domestically will be considered for its national team the Silver Ferns so the kiwis will keep their best talent.
Clearly what all this means is there is going to be a lot to talk about.
So instead of netball disappearing from the sports pages until next season stay tuned for a whole lot more of the stories usually reserved for the male dominated footy codes.
Let the celebrations continue, but come on netball officials let’s get cracking!