Netball: NZ still playing catch-up: Willering

Yvonne Willering.
Yvonne Willering.
Former Silver Ferns coach Yvonne Willering has questioned the professionalism within some New Zealand sides as their Australian counterparts prepare to break away from the ANZ Championship.

An announcement about the future of the transtasman competition is due next week and is expected to include news of a drastically reduced New Zealand presence for the 2017 season.

It has been reported Australian teams will play in an eight-team domestic competition, televised by Channel Nine in prime time, though Netball Australia said recently the new-look tournament would involve a transtasman component.

Lopsided results since the championship's inception in 2008 have resulted in poor television ratings for transtasman matches in Australia and forced Netball Australia to rethink its involvement.

The Magic has been the most successful New Zealand side, winning 48% of its matches against Australian opposition before this season.

It made the final in 2008 and 2010 and won the tournament in 2012.

But the rest of the Kiwi sides have struggled, with the Tactix and Pulse winning just four and five matches respectively from 43 attempts each.

The Tactix have not beaten an Australian side since 2012 and the Pulse has endured four winless seasons over the years.

The Mystics have won 12 of 47 transtasman matches and made the 2011 grand final, while the Steel has won 14 of 43 matches.

Willering, national coach from 1997 to 2002, said Australian sides had set the standard and New Zealand teams had not caught up.

"It's just the intensity and professionalism [they have],'' she said.

"Each person takes responsibility and sometimes I question whether it's the same here.''

Willering had been in favour of an original proposal to include six Australian teams and four New Zealand teams in the tournament, with a double round of transtasman matches.

"On the table, it's been quite even over the last couple of years, but that wasn't a true indication of the complete competition.

"I've always said it should be two rounds across the Tasman. That would give a true indication of who's at the top.

"If you look at the table now, the fourth-placed Australian team is better than our second-placed team.

"In the New Zealand conference, you could have three or four losses and still make it through to the finals round.

"I've spent some time with the Swifts and I've heard talk that these [transtasman] games don't really matter.

"For them to be talking like that, it makes sense that you have a breakaway.''

New Zealand teams did not have the same depth as their transtasman rivals, but it was still surprising they had not managed to narrow the gap over the years, Willering said.

"The Australians are quite predictable in their play but the trouble is they do it so well.''

A New Zealand domestic competition could still prove popular but it was not ideal, she said.

"Spectators like close games but we would still wonder how we'd go against Australian teams.''

She was also concerned top import players, such as the Steel's Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and the Tactix's Mwai Kumwenda, could be lured to the Australian league.

If crowd-pullers such as them were no longer in the mix, crowd numbers could take a hit, she said.

damian.george@odt.co.nz

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