a century oF hard work
Good on the Adelaide Crows footballers who brought 50,000 out to the AFLW grand final recently. It was a momentous occasion and a credit to everyone who made it possible – especially the athletes.
The WBBL had a great season over summer. I was so pleased to see our top women’s cricketers get more recognition. The reverberations across society, in terms of raising the place of women and giving girls a wider range of options, will be very positive.
Yet, for all their recent well-deserved success, it’s simply wrong for the likes of the AFL, cricket or the rugby codes to be described as the pacesetters for women’s sport, as I’ve heard quite a bit lately.
The truth is, netball has been the pacesetter – and it’s come about through a pioneering movement that’s been in action for nearly a century. I benefited from it as a player and won premierships with the Swifts. As I made my way through the coaching ranks, I saw another perspective on the way netball has done a fantastic job working for the betterment of women.
What concerns me is that we’ve been painfully reluctant to stand up for ourselves. We’ve seemed to me to have been far too content with our lot.
It’s one thing to have the approach which says, ‘We’re netball and we just fit in.’ But it’s a whole different thing when the market gets increasingly crowded and competition becomes much more intense.
Unless we start being proactive and proud of our achievements, I worry that our place to fit in will diminish before our eyes.
PUSH netball’s AGENDA
The landscape is changing, but top-line netball has a big headstart, which we should remind ourselves about and use.
Presently, of the major team sports in Australia, we’re the only one with a truly elite domestic competition for women. Some might argue that point, but I firmly believe it to be true.
Super Netball is a world-class competition, in which only the very best of hundreds of thousands of players make it, competing with imported players who are the cream of the crop from around the netball-playing world. Currently the AFLW, Super W and Women’s NRL are not in the same ballpark.
That reality is all the more worthy of mention given our budgets are tiny compared to the football codes and cricket.
Budgets equate to things like TV ads, radio promotions, billboard advertising – all sorts of devices to get more coverage. Those other sports have the economies of years of successful male competitions propping them up, so those budgets are not going to go away.
Our grassroots numbers will remain the envy of other sports for some time. But the indicators tell me that there’s a battle in front of us if we want to keep it that way.
We may not have the same kind of money to promote our game. But we do have the history, the foundation, the pathways and success.
We should not be afraid to talk up those aspects of our sport and defend our place as the market leader for women’s sport across Australia.
It’s only an interim solution, as the other codes won’t waste time establishing top female pathways of their own. Good luck to them. But I hope netball can learn to push its own agenda as it looks to keep growing.
It’s the very least elite netballers past, present and future deserve.