Netball: New three-grade format for club competition

Dunedin club netball has been restructured in a bid to strengthen the competition.

The old format of eight premier A teams and eight premier B teams has been replaced with three grades of six teams.

Teams will play three rounds of five games, rather than two rounds of seven games, and promotion-relegation matches will be played after the first two rounds with finals day scheduled for August 29.

"The reason for it is there are quite a few school teams playing in the premier grades and we wanted to make the games more competitive," Dunedin Netball Centre operations administrator Ruth Williams said, adding last year the premier A competition had six strong teams and two which struggled to compete.

The new structure means two extra teams have been included in the premier grades - Macandrew A, which will start in premier B, and Columba A, in premier C.

A men's side was allowed to play in the competition last year but not in the semifinals or final.

It was only a trial and this year "it was agreed, in consultation with the clubs, the men would play in the first round," Williams said.

Men's coach Lana Morrison said she was disappointed with the decision.

"I don't think they have made a good decision," she said. "You need to play people who are better than you to improve and they have missed out on an opportunity."

The men won all of their games but, in their absence, Southern A beat University-Albion A in the final and both are expected to be among the front-runners again, along with Phys Ed C, which has an experienced line-up.

To cater for the men, the premier A grade will begin two weeks early, with the first two matches of round one held on Thursday nights.

The competition starts tonight with Phys Ed C playing College Pulse A, Southern B playing Phys Ed A, and University-Albion A playing the men.

Southern A has the bye.

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