What a fascinating Suncorp Super Netball player recruitment period it’s been thus far.
I think we all expected some level of player movement amongst the teams – and certainly more than last year, with many players finishing up their original two-year deals.
But it’s been staggering just how thick and fast the changes and big signings have come.
Nat Medhurst, Caitlin Bassett, Caitlin Thwaites, Geva Mentor, Kelsey Browne, Shimona Nelson and Alice Teague-Neeld are among the big names to have switched clubs thus far, while overseas signings have poured in, including Laura Langman’s return from hiatus, Uganda’s Peace Proscovia joining the Sunshine Coast Lightning, Ine-Marie Venter finding a spot on the Vixens’ roster and Shamera Stirling becoming a Thunderbird.
What hasn’t been all that surprising is just how intense the depth of feeling is amongst netball fans and supporters about who the teams have recruited, and particularly around the signing of internationals over local talent.
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While some fans are excited at the prospect of so much international flavour in our national competition, many are (very vocally) disappointed that more homegrown players aren’t amongst the signings.
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But what’s important to remember is that for most of the coaches, now that there are no limits on the number of imports they can sign, investing in local talent is way down the bottom of the priority list.
That’s not their job anymore.
Their job is to win games for their franchise, and if they feel they’re better putting themselves in a better position to do that by recruiting from offshore, then that’s what they’ll do.
This is the brave new world of Suncorp Super Netball, and we all need to get used to it.
Back in the days of coaches being paid a pittance to head up their state’s top netball team (and the players being paid even less) then yes, you could argue that developing local talent was the number one priority.
After all, almost every player played for their own state’s team. How did the Sydney Swifts and Melbourne Phoenix win the last eight Commonwealth Bank Trophy premierships between them, between 2000 and 2007, before the league became the ANZ Championship and went international?
Yes, they were well coached, but as the two most populous states in Australia they also simply had access to more athletes because there was virtually no financial incentive for a player to move.
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But for Super Netball coaches, their job is now a well-paid, full-time career, and their job security inevitably rests on wins and losses. Already we’ve seen two coaches let go after their teams couldn’t put enough results on the board.
So it’s incumbent on them and their future in the game to grab the best available talent, regardless of where those players hail from.
The only elite coach with cause to be concerned about the percentage of local versus international players is Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander, who now has less players pushing their claims for inclusion in her squad because of the number of import players calling Super Netball home.
The goal shooter position in particular must be a huge concern, with only two genuine A-grade Aussie talls currently on a Super Netball roster, and both of them (Bassett and Thwaites) over 30.
The bigger issue, of course, is that if young Australian players can’t see enough of a pathway through to the top of their sport, they might walk away from netball to pursue other elite sporting opportunities. But that’s something the league will have to weigh up in the future.
Again, if you were a Suncorp Super Netball coach, you rightly wouldn’t care less.