So the inaugural season of Suncorp Super Netball is done and dusted. The competition was set up as a quick grab for cash with a television deal that is extremely substandard. Teams were assembled in the most uneven way possible and as a result it was a year that went pretty much as predicted, except for perhaps the performance of Collingwood. Some of the on-court action was as good as it has ever been, but off the court there are several major concerns that need urgent addressing before the second edition of this competition kicks off in 2018.
The Semi-Final weekend produced two games of netball that rival the 2015 and 2016 ANZ Championship Grand Finals between the Firebirds and Swifts. It does not get much better than two games each won by a point. The media coverage the followed was vitally important for the game, even if it had Magpies supporters up in arms because they thought their team has been treated harshly. Well, sorry but when a sporting team underperforms like the Magpies have done all season, it deserves as much attention and criticism from the media as it gets. That creates talk and talk does nothing but good things for ensuring that the sport is a relevant one in the busy sporting marketplace.
It is great to see more of Australia’s netball talent getting court time. The extra three teams have given positions to talent that may otherwise have sat on the bench all season. Names like Gia Abernathy for the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Chloe Watson for the Melbourne Vixens and Kristina Brice for the Giants come to mind as players who have been given more exposure in 2017.
It would have been a good sign for the game had the Melbourne Vixens, who built a team based on developing talent rather than poaching big names from other clubs, made the Grand Final. Despite this, the Grand Final clash between the expansion teams in the Sunshine Coast Lightning and the Greater Western Sydney Giants was a high level game of netball, albeit not a close one. I imagine that is the argument those will throw out there when I make the point about expansion teams being relatively dominant. A large crowd justified the game being moved from Sunshine Coast’s home court to Brisbane, although I would like to know how many Sunshine Coast fans made the trip across.
The AFL in 2017 is doing all it can to market the game to men and women alike. It is interesting to note that netball is throwing all its efforts into marketing solely and purely at a female audience. While there is nothing wrong with a campaign that promotes confident and healthy young girls, the netball market is and can be bigger than that. Netball is not strictly a female sport, just as the AFL is no longer only a male dominated one. Super Netball needs to ensure that they do not skew too far in one direction with their target markets going forward.
Former Adelaide Thunderbird Natalie von Bertouch in a column for The Advertiser last week made a good point in that the timing of Suncorp Super Netball is slightly off. The length of the competition feels right, but I agree that June is too soon to finish up when most winter netball competitions are only in their early stages. Is there any harm in starting Super Netball in April and finishing in August? Interesting food for thought.
There is no getting out of the five-year broadcast agreement with the Nine Network, but pressure must be heaped on the broadcaster from fans and administrators alike to try to get ALL games on Nine’s main high-definition channel in 2018. If you lived in Adelaide, Perth or the Northern Territory, you did not even get the Grand Final in high-definition, which is nothing short of pathetic. Netball is a world-class sport and deserves a broadcaster that treats it as such. You cannot have a sport hidden away on 9Gem, particularly when over on NineHD, most Saturday Nights consist of a terrible movie. On Grand Final night it was Hamish and Andy for Adelaide viewers. Nine must also get the guts to broadcast a weekly wrap show of the action from the previous weekend. Suncorp Super Netball started to produce their own weekly show, but this must be shown on free to air television in 2018 as well.
The scheduling of games is another aspect that needs urgent attention. With football and netball now linked more than ever and a huge cross over with fan bases, scheduling Collingwood Netball games at the same time as Collingwood AFL games must never happen. The same has to be done across the competition in all AFL states. The AFL draw comes out at the end of October. Hold off on releasing the Suncorp Super Netball fixture until after that to minimise clashes. The scheduling of games at 8.15pm or 7.45pm (depending on where you live) has to be restricted. It is too late a time slot. Perhaps more Friday night fixtures, Saturday twilight or Sunday time slots need to be explored.
It is also time to scrap the Queensland from the Queensland Firebirds and the New South Wales from the Swifts. With other teams in these states now, it must be the Brisbane Firebirds and the Sydney Swifts. They are no longer state teams.
Suncorp Super Netball gets a pass mark in 2017, but nobody should be content as to where the competition has finished up. It has lost ground on where the ANZ Championship was in terms of media attention and television coverage. Channel Nine have not done as much as they possibly could have for the game yet and they must be held to account for that. Moving forward there is a base that can now be worked with, but fans must be sought out and listened to on key aspects of the sport to help it move forward. Without building on the current base, the sport of netball will not be sustainable in this country.
Bring on next season!
Picture – Wide World of Sports
EXTRA REQUEST – Can we shorten the official hashtag from #SuncorpSuperNetball to say #SSN? It currently takes up far too many characters on Twitter!