Netball is set to provide a massive boost to the Gold Coast economy over the next three days with thousands of people heading to the popular tourist destination for a range of high-profile events.
The third annual NetFest gets underway later today and runs through until Sunday with more than 200 teams from across Australia and New Zealand taking part in Netball Australia’s mass participation event for men and women aged 18 years and over.
With the Gold Coast set to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games, NetFest and the final Test match of the Coles Netball Test Series between the Australian Diamonds and the Malawi Queens on Saturday night will only highlight the region’s ability to host world-class sporting events.
NetFest will be officially opened at 5pm, local time, with a celebrity match being played on the sand at Surfers Paradise featuring Australian netball royalty in the form of former captains Liz Ellis – NetFest’s ambassador – and the recently retired Sharelle McMahon.
Ellis will head up “Liz’s Legends”, a team that will also feature ironman Trevor Hendy (pictured above playin gin last year’s celebrity match) and TV star Jessica Skarratt while McMahon will play for the Sea FM All Stars.
While they were teammates in the Australian team for almost a decade, McMahon and Ellis were opponents for many years in the national domestic league. But having been out of the game for six years, Ellis is smart enough to know McMahon may have a slight fitness edge over her on court.
“My plan is to stick Trevor Hendy on her and let him set her out,” Ellis joked about her tactics for tonight’s game.
“I’m not silly enough to chase her around.”
NetFest’s numbers have grown substantially since the inaugural event three years ago and Ellis said the combination of playing netball and having fun with friends is a big attraction.
“I’ve already had lots of Twitter messages from people who are coming up to play and they’re all really excited about it,” Ellis said.
“There’s a real sense of fun about the event. There’s some serious teams and people are there to play some good netball, but a lot are there to have fun with their teammates and everything in between.”
Teams can choose from the traditional outdoor competition format or the increasingly popular beach netball competition played on custom-built courts on the sands of Surfers Paradise.
This year sees a record 35 teams – across three female and two mixed divisions – taking part in the beach competition while the outdoor competition has attracted 168 teams comprising nine competitive, six social and two mixed divisions.
All teams will play a round robin tournament over Friday and Saturday with the top four in each division progressing to the finals on Sunday.
A special NetFest Party has also been organised to coincide with the Test match between the Diamonds and Queens at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre.
For further information, visit netfest.com.au, or follow NetFestAU on Facebook and Twitter.