Very few sports that are played in multiple countries (sorry rugby league and AFL) can lay claim to having all the best talent in the world playing in their league. Examples include football, where the best players are spread all across Europe’s big 5 leagues, rugby union divides the Northern and Southern Hemispheres while the IPL cricket has a quota on international talent. The NBA and Suncorp Super Netball are two exceptions and both competitions improve the global sport immensely.
2017 saw the creation of SSN in Australia - 8 teams with three games broadcast live on free to air tv each week. The elite players from every country play: Australia, New Zealand, England, Jamaica, South Africa along with emerging talent from Africa and the Caribbean. This results in an exceptional standard of netball being played week in, week out.
SSN is also an innovative league. First there was the the introduction of the bonus points for winning each quarter meaning there was always something to play for however it did mean outside of the starting 7 not many minutes for the rest of the squad. The rule was scrapped for 2020, mainly due to COVID-19, with rolling subs introduced (it should be introduced at all levels!) - a fantastic concept that allows for the coach to make tactical changes to counter the opposition, combat fatigue, change style or to exploit the two point ”Super Shot”.
It’s a rule that divides opinion but there can be no denying that it makes the game more exciting. A big margin can be mowed down in a matter on minutes, with a dominant 5-minute period of draining the long bombs. It has also brought the shorter, skilful shooters into the game more and made defenders adjust their style. A reader of my last article makes the valid point - what happens in 2021 if a club recruits all the two point shooters?
There are some downsides to having the best and most innovative netball league in the world and these relate to the Australian Diamonds national team. The new rules don’t apply at international level so players will have to adjust their style.
Caitlin Basset, Australian captain and starting goal shooter has been frozen out by the Giants with only 60 minutes of netball the past 6 matches as coach Julie Fitzgerald opts for the shorter, more accurate long range shooters: young gun Kiera Austin and English star Jo Harten.
That’s the other problem of having uncapped numbers of global talent in the competition, Australian players get less opportunities. Of the starting goal circles only the Sunshine Coast Lightning has two eligible diamonds in Koenen and Wood. Their defensive end features two South Africans while NZ legend, Laura Langham is in mid-court. For the Aussies who do get court time in SSN, it’s great for their development playing against the best. The global game is only getting stronger due to SSN netball but will it be to the detriment of the diamonds?