So the opening round of Suncorp Super Netball is done and dusted and what a round it was. The Swifts kicked it off jumping out of the blocks and went goal for goal with the new kids on the block, the Giants for almost the whole game. Then we headed to Melbourne, where title favourites the Collingwood Magpies fell at the first hurdle, going down to the Melbourne Vixens. Up in Queensland, it did not take long for the first draw of the new competition to take place and back in Adelaide, the Thunderbirds produced a miraculous comeback to down the West Coast Fever.
So what did we learn? From the television broadcast and the commentators, to the new rivalries that are forming and the quality of the players and action on the court. From The Grandstand takes a look.
Stop the hype
Netball is a brilliant sport and has stood the test of time across many different competitions over many years. It does not need silly commentary which belittles its audience and oversells the game to the point of embarrassment. In the opening match between the Giants and the Swifts, the overhype was exactly what happened. Every two minutes we would get reminded that the Swifts were not meant to be winning. At one stage the commentators said that the score line was such a huge surprise. A fair enough comment, but at that point the score was 2-all after four minutes. Let the game do the talking please.
Surprised the Giants are not further up say the commentators after 4 whole minutes of the game and score being 2-all… Umm. #GIAvSWI
— Thomo (@liamthompson1) February 18, 2017
Fortunately game one seemed to be the outlier with the commentary and it improved greatly after that. Perhaps it was opening round commentary nerves, but whatever it was, it unnecessary.
And do we really need the rules of netball flashing up on the screen? If we are doing that, I would love to know the rule that allows quarters to be 90 minutes long…
— Thomo (@liamthompson1) February 18, 2017
9Gem broadcasting live games is a good start after the initial press release last year indicated that this was not to be the case. The price netball has to pay for being on free to air is high though. Ad breaks during tactical time outs was tacky, as was a broadcast in standard definition. Many do not agree with me, but Channel Nine should really have faith in its product and put it on its main channel on Saturday nights. Crocodile Dundee and The Castle were what was broadcast on Saturday night on Channel Nine, while the netball was hidden away in substandard definition on 9Gem. Perhaps I am just accustomed to watching my sport, ad break free, siren to siren in high-definition.
On Sunday came the first test of Australian sport being locked away on a mobile network, with fans unable to watch the match between the Adelaide Thunderbirds and West Coast Fever live without having a Telstra device. Judging by social media and the messages I received, many people were caught off guard. Unless you have access to Telstra TV, who wants to watch sport on a mobile phone anyway?
I thought coming into the new Suncorp Super League that this was the wrong television deal for netball and the weekend only confirmed this.
In a positive sense, the graphics were good and the extra packages added a good element to the broadcast. Plenty to build on there.
On court though, it was hard to fault the quality of any game played over the weekend. All ended up being close, all were of a very high standard and all produced cracking contests. If you were to script an opening weekend of on court action, you would write almost exactly what happened. The three rivalry games will build and already have shown signs of dividing states. The question that has to be asked now though is whether now that Queensland and New South Wales are two team states, whether it should be the Sydney Swifts and the Brisbane Firebirds?
The battle with AFLW
As much as netball claims it is not worried about the impact the NAB AFL Women’s competition is having on its sport, there is reason to be concerned. The newspapers and TV networks have pumped up the AFLW to the point that it has really pushed the launch of Suncorp Super Netball to the back of news bulletins and to be hidden away in the paper. A prime example of this is that Channel Nine, the rights holder for netball in Australia has a weekly show focussing on AFLW, yet does not give the same attention to the sport it has the rights to. Adelaide’s The Advertiser newspaper published an article about the Adelaide Crows women’s team moments after their win against Carlton on Sunday. The Adelaide Thunderbirds comeback win against the West Coast Fever was not online until late afternoon, hours after completion. Like it or not netball has a fight on its hands for coverage like never before.
The Courier Mail in Queensland had better coverage of the rivalry between the Lightning and Firebirds, which is the sort of content that needs to be encouraged across the nation.
— Courier Mail Sport (@cmail_sport) February 18, 2017
Tactical time outs
The tactical time outs feel a little basketball, but they were quick and did not seem to impact the flow or length of the game too much.
Expect the unexpected?
It is only round one, but the Thunderbirds unexpected win over the Fever, the Vixens knocking off the Magpies, a draw between the Lightning and Firebirds and the Swifts unexpectedly taking it up to the Giants is enough reason to believe that the season might not be as lopsided as first thought. There was a big presence of nerves out there over the weekend, which is good as it shows how much this game means to the women playing it. If the standard remains at the level, we are in for another brilliant ride.
Talent to burn
From the talent of the international players to the home-grown names, it was clear this is an exceptionally skilled competition after the first round. Sarah Klau and Maddy Proud played the games of their lives for the Swifts, Gia Abernathy changed the game for the Thunderbirds, Laura Scherian did it for the Lightning. Good talent attracts good talent, which can only be a good thing.
On court, you could not fault the opening round of the Suncorp Super League. It is a wonderful product of high level sport featuring highly skilled players. It is now just a shame that to watch the game, you have to jump through too many hoops and variables. When you do watch, it just falls short of the premium coverage other sports of its calibre receive. All the ingredients are there for success, it is just a matter of stirring them the right way to get the most out of the product.
GWS Giants 58 d NSW Swifts 53
Melbourne Vixens 58 d Collingwood Magpies 55
Queensland Firebirds 56 Sunshine Coast Lightning 56
Adelaide Thunderbirds 56 d West Coast Fever 51
Picture – Suncorp Super Netball