Netball in Australia: Key Issues
Netball is an international sport which is played by two teams, each with seven players and the game is based on throwing and catching. The game’s object is to score maximum goals while remaining within a defined area, as the players have to throw a ball into a ring that is attached to a 3.05metres or a 10 feet high post (Davis and Damien 2006).
Historically speaking, netball was developed first in England and came to Australia in the form of women’s basketball. The All Australia Women’s Basketball Association was created in August 1927 and the first National Championships were held in Melbourne in 1928. In 1939, an Australian team was sent to tour New Zealand. A great landmark in the history of Netball was that Australia travelled overseas by ship for the first time to play with England. The Australian Women’s Netball team won 54 out of the 57 games played at the Wembley Stadium, creating its international name (Smith 2003).
After the phenomenal success of the England tour, a conference was held in London in 1957 so that an International Code of rules could be drawn for England, New Zealand, Australia, Northern Ireland, South Africa, USA and Wales. In 1960, the first Australian Women’s Basketball and Netball Association was accepted officially.
In Australia, one of the major exponents of this sport form internationally, especially at the elite level the game is one of the most popular women’s sport and it has about a whopping one million players nationwide. Traditionally, netball is considered a sport for women in Australia but slowly, mixed teams of boys and girls is being developed to play the sport at national and international levels (Hillman 2003).
Talking of statistics, at the international sports level, Australia is highly regarded by over 40 countries as Australian teams have won nine out of twelve World Netball Championships since they began in 1963. In 1997, netball entered a new era as the National Netball League was set up in Australia with the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Trophy. The competition closed in 2001, almost 11 years later and has now been replaced with the ANZ Championship for netball (Smith 2003).
Training, facilities and interest
The Australian Government is very keen on sports development and spends a large amount on developing the sport of netball as well. National Championships are being conducted for 17/U, 19/U and 21/U age groups and the official Australian Netball League allows all younger players to have tough competition at regular championships so that they can be trained for elite level international netball in the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics. The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is the spearhead of all international sports of Australia—it can be called the national centre for sports excellence as they have numerous programs and coaching centres for the training and development of elite athletes and teams, especially in netball. The AIS has been operating since 1981 and has offered scholarships based in Canberra to over 700 athletes every year covering almost 26 sports (Davis and Damien 2006).
The AIS does not merely provide access to world- class sports science and sports medicine service but also provides state-of- the –art sports facilities to athletes along with opportunities for playing in national and international competitions. Thus, Netball players in Australia can train for elite level courses and combine top-level sports training with international travel and study.
Report on the development in schools, clubs and in the local community
Also, an organization called Netball Australia has partnered with the Australian Sports Commission’s program called Active After –School Communities (AASC) which has begun a new foundation coaching course for after- school coaching of school students for the game of Netball as also the AASC’s community Coach Training program that will help train the local coaches to help the children reach higher levels of the sport. Basically the AASC program is a national drive to ensure that the primary school children get access to free and structured Netball training programs. DVD’s from the Netball Association of Australia are also being distributed to hone the skills of the children as well as the coaches (Navin 2008).
Role of government
The Australian Government is stressing on the promotion and development of netball as it has the highest number of participants nationally, rivaling that of cricket or soccer. The Australian national netball team, promoted by Netball Australia, dominates the international scenario of the game, rivaled only by New Zealand’s Silver Ferns. At the Netball World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, Australia recently won the World Crown in 2007 (Hoye 2009).
Information on grass root participation/mass participation
If we take a look at the domestic level of the sport, elite level players are highly acclaimed for the trophies they won in the earlier Commonwealth Bank Trophy, now defunct. Recently, Indoor Netball is growing as a variation of the game and it has certain modifies rules. This form is gaining popularity among men and women, ensuring mixed competitions (Hunter 2006).
In 2008, the ANZ Championships started for Netball which had five teams from Australia and New Zealand. The Australian teams were the Melbourne Vixens, West Coast Fever, NSW Swifts, the Adelaide Thunderbirds and the Queensland Firebirds. The NSW Swifts won the Championship of 2008 and the Vixens won the ANZ Championship in 2009, leading to the tag of the Vixens being “the best netball team in the world.” The most famous name of Australian Netball players are Sharelle McMahon, Shelley O’Donnell, Julie Corletto, Liz Ellis, Bianca Chatfield, Catherine Cox and Natalie von Bertouch (Hoye 2009).
Grassroots to elite and then international elite
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) is a vital partner for the development of netball in Australia. It provides substantial financial resources and invests in the intellectual and human resources into netball, causing Netball Australia to move ahead. The Commission reviews the high performance programs and the research for the elite level players, provides extra scholarships to officials, athletes and coaches as well as undertakes the improvement of the national sporting organization.
Report on the format of competitions
Netball Australia is a federal organization theta has affiliated associations in all states of Australia and in other mainland territories of the country. It is governed by the Board of Directors who are elected by the State and Territory Affiliated Associations. Netball Australia’s main target is to increase the competency of the game at the elite international level with the help of scholarships, tournaments and infrastructure of the best kind. However, Netball Australia also has the responsibility of sponsoring and promoting the sport at a national and international level, encouraging even schoolchildren to play the game. Apart from this, the association is also the main body that determines all the rules and policies of the game within Australia and when it organizes national competitions, it is the official authority of rules and regulations of the game, on behalf of the country. Kate Palmer is the Chief Executive Officer of Netball Australia since October 2006 (Fishel 2008).
Ideology, religion and national identity
The game is fast becoming a national identity with good players coming up the pipeline. However, participation of labour migration or indigenous population is lowering the feeling of exclusive identity creation in terms of Ideology, religion and national identity. However, under the globalisation concept such elements are always integrated in the society and the followers must construct a mental framework to accept these factors (Hoye 2009). At present, the game in Australia is growing and with help from the government it would surely reach its popularity pinnacle in near future.
Davis, D and Damien, D. (2006) A study of Netball in Australia, Sydney: Macmillan Education Australia.
Fishel, D. (2008) Book of the board: effective governance for non-profit organisations, Auckland: Federation Press.
Hillman, R. (2003) Netball, Sydney: Pearson Education Australia.
Hoye, R. (2009) Sport Management: Principles and Applications, London: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Hunter, R. (2006) Netball, Sydney: Franklin Watts.
Navin, A. (2008) Netball: Skills Techniques Tactics, Sydney: Crowood Press.
Smith, A. (2003) Netball, London: Heinemann Library.