Netball New Zealand have announced that they will revamp their domestic competition structure, headlined by the new National Netball League. This will see a 12-week domestic competition go down alongside the ANZ Championship with Netball NZ clearly identifying areas in which they need to switch things up and putting that review into action. All too often reviews and what not lead to silly decisions to in some cases nothing so shout out to Netball NZ for getting things done.
First and foremost, the NNL will provide a clear pathway through the netballing ranks and greater opportunities for fringe ANZ Championship players to get a taste of what it's like. For the Silver Ferns and netball in Aotearoa, this can only be seen as a positive as it streamlines the development process and ensures that the national league will get greater exposure; which I'm sure it will despite being put in the shade by the ANZ Championship.
It remains to be seen whether the NNL will be financially sustainable, but you'd have to imagine that all these sorts of questions would have asked and answered in the boardroom. Tagging on the back of the ANZ Championship should make this easier as well
The NNL is a clear example of Netball NZ doing something different with their domestic competition to benefit all the various parties involved from the players to fans. This comes at time when the other core sports that kiwis follow are also switching things up to not only stay relevant, but also to get the most out of their competition. This isn't easy as all of our domestic competitions are semi-pro at best, presenting us with a unique sporting marketplace here in Aotearoa.
Football is at the forefront of the changing times as the ASB Premiership is live on telly and there are discussions about a revamped national competition to eventually take over from the Premiership. This would see greater alignment where there are clear levels for players to climb as well as aligning football throughout the grades.
Rugby has the ITM Cup and competitions below it which form the foundation of the greatest rugby playing nation in the world. Not too many issues here.
Hockey is stuck in a hard place with its National Hockey League which takes place over a week and a few weekends. While the NHL does attract some of the world's best hockey players ensuring that it is popular amongst hockey fans, it does suffer from its amateur status. Anything more than a condensed week and a few weekends would be difficult to pull off as players hold down jobs and don't get much in the way of rewards for their services.
The NHL does serve the national teams well though with strong NHL performances usually leading to higher honours for players so in that sense it does a good job.
Rugby league has various external factors impacting its national competition. The NZRL Premiership doesn't receive much love from sports fans as the best young kiwi players have already been snapped up by NRL clubs leaving the local battler representing for his province. It also doesn't offer much of a pathway for players as they are generally of a lower standard and aren't capable of the jump up to NSW Cup (Warriors use this team anyway) or the NRL.
Basketball on the other hand has seen its NBL establish itself as the clear second tier of basketball in Aotearoa below the Australian NBL (ANBL). Not only do many ANBL players turn out for various NBL teams, we've also seen players like Jarrod Kenny impress in the NBL and then earn Tall Blacks honours and a ANBL contract. Not only do basketball fans get to see a high standard of basketball but the clear pathways offered by the NBL serve kiwi basketball very well.
Cricket is a weird one as the push to get T20 cricket front and centre pushes the longer formats into the shade with the Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy suffering to an extent. There is a very clear pathway for cricketers though with strong performances in any of the domestic competitions putting players in the sights of BLACKCAPS management. Cricket fans are treated to quality performances as the standard of cricket is high and the calibre of player in domestic cricket not too far below international quality.
The challenge for all of the major codes and their domestic competitions is getting these competitions in front of the average sports fan. We have seen the ASB Premiership get this done and from my experience this has been great as after watching a few weeks of the action, I already have teams and players that I do/don't like. Football has taken the traditional route, using Sky TV to get its product on the telly while we also saw the NHL finals shown live on Sky TV as well.
It's going to be very interesting to come back to this each year as the various sports and their governing bodies fight for greater market share. We live in a time where the internet is easily accessible which should be a great asset for our domestic competitions and a failure to use the interwebs correctly could see domestic sporting competitions remain stagnant.
Oh Steven Adams goes alright...