Netball greats gather to discuss state of our game

McKinnis SimoneAustralian netball is enjoying a golden period of dominance in the international arena.

But rather than basking in the glory, netball chiefs are already putting plans in place to maintain that No.1 ranking for generations to come.

Some of the nation’s best netball minds gathered in Melbourne last weekend at the `State of The Game’ Conference to discuss ideas and explore opportunities to keep Australia at the top of world netball.

The Diamonds’ immediate focus is on next year’s Netball World Cup in Sydney and ensuring that title is kept in Australia for another four years – adding to the Commonwealth Games Gold Medal won in Glasgow this year.

The current 19-Test winning streak remains the fourth best of all-time and Netball Australia’s Head of High Performance Andrew Collins said the conference looked at ways to ensure this successful period continues long into the future.

Collins Andrew (2)“We looked at ways to make sure the future is as bright as our current performances,” Collins said.

All five current Australian-based ANZ Championship coaches were there – Simone McKinnis (Vixens), Jane Woodlands-Thompson (Thunderbirds), Roselee Jencke (Firebirds), Rob Wright (Swifts) and new West Coast Fever leader Stacey Rosman.

The legendary Joyce Brown along with the likes of Anne Sargeant, Lisa Beehag, Sue Gaudion and Bianca Chatfield also attended.

Collins said the conference looked at how Netball Australia’s existing competition pathways and underage competitions could uncover the athletes who would lead the Diamonds into 2020 and beyond.Brown Joyce

“It was fantastic to have some wonderful names of Australian netball all gathered together to share their knowledge and experience and discuss the future direction of Australian netball,” Collins said.

“We have some wonderful athletes in the current Australian squad, but we have to be sure we don’t lose sight on our efforts to identify our next batch of Diamonds.

“We have to take a holistic view on what makes a successful athlete into the future and ensure that we are working with our coaches right through our pathway to find the athletes that will be successful.

“We are very fortunate to have a strong and growing participation base, but we can’t just wait for the talent to emerge. We have to work hard to identify and find it and that will include looking at the talent that exists outside our sport currently.”

Netball Australia is currently reviewing the structures of the Australian Netball League and the 21/U, 19/U and 17/U National Championships to ensure these competitions continue to provide opportunities for ANZ Championship franchises to uncover the next Karyn Bailey, Kim Ravaillion, Kate Moloney, Madeleine Proud, Tayliah Davies and Beryl Friday.

“We have a strong competition pathway, but there was a view that we can do more, particularly in reforming our underpinning competitions like the Australian Netball League and ensuring that it provides the right pathway into the ANZ Championship,” Collins said.

Having the input of the ANZ Championship coaches into future planning ensures Australia isn’t just developing high-quality athletes.

“There was a strong focus on supporting our coaches,” Collins said.

“We have such a rich tradition of great coach leaders in Australian netball; we have to look hard at how we use this experience to support and mentor our next wave of developing coaches, both on and off the court.”

So that really talented goal defender or shooter or centre court player you see running around your local courts next year, make sure you remember the name and face – in the future she could be wearing the green and gold and continuing a proud tradition which began 76 years ago.