Netball: Nothing yet agreed - Australian body

Netball Australia has confirmed it plans to add more Australian teams to next year's ANZ Championship, but has denied media reports claiming New Zealand teams will be axed completely from the new-look tournament.

Details of the widely expected split were published in a sports column in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. It claimed a new eight-team Australian domestic competition would begin in February and would be backed by investors including NRL club Melbourne Storm and AFL club Collingwood.

It was reported Channel Nine and Telstra were expected to enter into five-year agreements to broadcast the 17-round competition and incumbent broadcaster Channel Ten would lose the television rights.

A final decision on the three new teams to join the competition was yet to be announced, the report said, but a Storm-owned team was likely to be established on the Sunshine Coast and another Melbourne-based team was believed to be backed by Collingwood.

A second Sydney-based team was also likely to be established.

However, Netball Australia events general manager Kate Patterson told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the report was based on speculation, and details of the 2017 tournament had yet to be confirmed.

A joint announcement from Netball Australia and Netball New Zealand about the new-look competition was expected next week, she said.

"From our end, no-one from Netball Australia was spoken to.

"We're still negotiating a broadcast deal and the terms are not yet agreed to.

"It's all a bit premature.''

The format of the new-look tournament, including New Zealand's involvement, would be determined once a broadcast deal had been reached, she said.

"Until we have that deal, we can't say with any certainty how that competition will look.

"We are looking to expand the number of Australian teams, because our Australian advertisers want more Australian content, and we need to get that deal in place.

"But I would say there certainly would be a transtasman component.''

New Zealand teams have struggled against their Australian rivals since the tournament was introduced in 2008, and television ratings have been low for the transtasman encounters.

When asked what aspects of the broadcasting deal would help determine New Zealand's involvement in the competition, Patterson said it would depend on what was commercially viable.

"It's what's going to meet the demands for our Australian content, and the appetite to show transtasman contests.

"I would expect there to be a transtasman component, and that's what we look forward to announcing with [Netball] New Zealand next week.''

Netball New Zealand released a brief statement yesterday saying it was surprised by the speculation and information in the Herald report.

Netball New Zealand declined to comment further on the statement.

New Zealand sides played in an eight-team National Bank Cup before the ANZ Championship was established.

It involved three South Island sides - including the Otago Rebels and the Southern Sting, who combined to form the Southern Steel - and five North Island sides.

If New Zealand teams were still involved next year, it begs the question of how they would be made up.

The New Zealand sides are expected to play in their own domestic league, and there was the possibility of an additional Kiwi team, possibly in the greater Auckland region, being included.

There is speculation the top teams from the Australian and New Zealand competitions could play off in a finals series.

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