Suncorp Super Netball Just the Tip of Netball’s Global Appeal
Establishing a beachhead into Asia is part of a bold roadmap set to reinforce Suncorp Super Netball’s standing as one of the world’s top women’s sporting leagues.
The arrival of six new foreign players plus the return of Silver Ferns greats Laura Langman and Maria Folau are part of a 21-player international contingent drawn to Australia’s national league in 2019.
Like basketball’s NBA and WNBA, and football’s English Premier League, Suncorp Super Netball has become a destination for female athletes from all continents looking to test themselves at the highest level under the most rewarding employment conditions.
With competition from other sports certain to intensify, the league has at least one eye on Asia as a means to grow its appeal.
“Australia sits in the Asian region, which is traditionally not big in netball,” Netball Australia chief executive Marne Fechner said.
“To improve our product in terms of take-up we need to increase awareness. From an Asian perspective, there is a big opportunity to take games internationally and that’s firmly on our agenda.”
Where England’s Geva Mentor and Romelda Aiken (Jamaica) were once the among a small handful of imports blazing a trail in the Antipodes, Australia’s national league is now a cosmopolitan blend of the world’s fittest and most skilful netballers.
Aiken’s teammate, Shamera Sterling, England international Layla Gusgoth (both Adelaide Thunderbirds) and Sunshine Coast Lightning signings, Uganda sharpshooter Peace Proscovia and Phumza Maweni (South Africa) are among the new arrivals likely to make an impact in 2019.
Former England international Tamsin Greenway is qualified to opine on Suncorp Super Netball’s strength.
Now a netball ambassador for Super League club Wasps and Sky Netball analyst, Greenway was once a mentor for Aiken during a stint at wing attack for the Queensland Firebirds.
While attracting the world’s best netballers to one competition can cause growing pains in Australia and abroad, Greenway argues a strong Australian domestic league can light the way for further growth.
“I think the league is on its way to becoming the netball NBA. It’s attracting the best and dominating all the others across the world in terms of attendances, sponsorship and revenue,” Greenway said.
“I like to look positively on change, and certainly having the big names and the huge stars all in place is a bonus for the sport. It’s also incredible for the players to be paid properly and allowed to play and train as fulltime athletes.
“Personally, I’d love to get us to a point where we have three or four major leagues worldwide and a mix of players across the board.”
Fechner acknowledges the view that imports can place a squeeze on the development pathway that leads to the Australia Netball Diamonds.
“I think the league is on its way to becoming the netball NBA.”
“We need to continue to ensure that the Australian Netball League is a real breeding ground for players who can step up,” she said. “I think there will be a settling period and the pathway will be ready to step up.”
It is through a global lens that netball will increasingly view itself.
The Netball Live app enables the sport to be streamed from anywhere and there are eyes in new international markets watching with interest.
“In terms of global visibility, netball has never been in better shape,” Fechner said.
“It’s about having the best athletes and showing the sport in the best possible light.”