The big topic of the week, as well as the upcoming ANZ Championship Finals, which will be fascinating in their own right, is the new Unlimited Import Ruling for the new national netball league.
Opening up of the import restrictions does not mean an opening of the flood gates for a free for all of imports to the detriment of Australian athletes.
For one, our talent is right up there with the best in the world and will be evenly matched up against world class imports.
I back our High Performance system to provide the bulk of talent and world class athletes for this new league.
I back our ability to coach this talent as well the coaching in our talent pathways. This is a world class system.
Recruiting imports is not without considerable risks and extra expense. Franchises will need to weigh up these decisions very carefully.
However, our current imports are just brilliant and wonderful contributors to our ANZ Championship clubs as both people and netballers.
I can speak personally of the contribution that both Carla Borrego and Geva Mentor have made to netball in this country.
They have not only given their heart and soul to their respective teams in a netball sense, they have made major contributions off the court as well.
Having coached both athletes in my time as Assistant Coach to Head Coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson at the Adelaide Thunderbirds, I can say that both were superb world class athletes who brought their unique skills to the Australian netball system.
They challenged both mine and Jane’s coaching, in that we needed to adapt to their strengths and chip away at their weaknesses, marrying this with the unique Adelaide way.
I simply loved coaching both athletes and believe that they have brought so much flair and athleticism to our game, as have all of our imports.
They have learned from us and we have learned from them.
This has strengthened international netball in my view. For example, Malawi netballer, Mwai Kumwenda began her import career here in my home state of Victoria.
Her development into one the worlds’ best international athletes is a credit to her, her family and her adopted family and coaches in Victoria and in Christchurch.
This has given Malawi an athlete in the Worlds’ best domestic league and I’m sure that when Mwai plays for her country she shares all of that knowledge and expertise that she has gained.
For those concerned about the numbers, we will have 80 positions available on the new league 10 per team.
This translates to more positions for Australian athletes if we take a prudent view of imports at an average of two per team.
This will still allow 64 positions for Australian athletes which is nine more positions than the current 55 positions.
Positional issues (eg last year our National Selectors had two goal keepers to choose from) will still arise, but I believe this will be mitigated by the fact that we now have eight teams to have more choice of an Australian GK.
Those concerned about 10 athletes need to analyse the past eight years and the use of the athletes on the bench.
It is rare to use the 11th and 12th player.
This will have an impact on the need for the ANL to be strong and fully integrated into the Franchise team.
It is the system that will need to adapt and there will be more opportunities to improve our depth in coaching, sports science and medicine, talent development, event management and more.
I am excited as National Coach at the opportunities that this new league presents.
It will not be easy but nothing great ever is!
Netball will get it done.
I’m also mindful of keeping our international game growing and building, and our responsibilities in this space.
We must all work together on this and bring our stakeholders with us on this journey.
That includes all of our netball family and community.
My pick for the two finals this week, Swifts to win and Magic to win.