Netball in New Zealand, responding well to the challenges?

Netball in New Zealand, responding well to the challenges?

In the previous netball post we raised questions regarding the end of the ANZ Championship and moves from Netball Australia to dominate the professional club scene. Since then there have been strong performances from New Zealand teams in the ANZ Champs, although we will have to see how well they compete in the final series, and a great finish to the new Beko league.

Netball Australia have started to show their hand, with suggestions they will not impose limits on the  number of international players in their new competition, aiming to make it the premier club competition. 

Netball NZ has appointed Jennie Wylie as the new CEO. Jennie has been with NNZ for 7 years as the head of finance and administration. A truly passionate netball person with strong corporate and finance experience. Steve Lancaster, the head of High Performance has resigned and is returning to rugby.

Is the appointment of Jennie Wylie a good move by the board? With a clear love of netball, including a strong connection with the netball community it would appear so. She is the first CEO since netball entered the professional age, to come from within the ranks, a signal that netball supports not just player, but administration pathways? Her big challenges will be responding to Netball Australia, ensuring the new Elite League is marketed well, funded well and accepted by the netball community and general sports fans, and the ongoing drive for community sport participation.

Is the need for a new head of HP going to be an opportunity for the CEO to appoint a netball knowledgable person into this key role?

Netball Australia signaling no limits on international players has got to be a concern for netball New Zealand, England and possibly Jamaica.  Should New Zealand follow suit, or take a NZ Rugby protectionist stance? In theory players could play their club netball in Australia and still represent their country, but losing good players from local competion will affect pathway development and create complications (and expense) in national team development. Is creating a competitive international club environment  good for the development of netball internationally, or will it harm the cooperative culture? Is there enough money to create a meaningful market as we see in football, rugby, cricket etc., or will it damage player and competition development?

We are seeing big changes in netball, the biggest changes since the development of the ANZ Championship. Jennie Wylie has a big job ahead, but with a supportive board and the strength of the netball community, the sport should evolve successfully.

Russian athletes guilty until proven innocent – reasonable or a travesty of justice?

Russian athletes guilty until proven innocent – reasonable or a travesty of justice?

WADA, the IAAF and the IOC are united that Russian athletes should, by default, be banned from competing at the Rio Olympics.
IOC president Thomas Bach says proven, clean,  Russian athletes could take part under their own flag.
IAAF says that on an ‘exceptional basis’, clean athletes can compete as neutrals.
WADA also agrees with athletes competing on an exception-only basis, but believes they should be able to compete under their own nations flag.
Valerie Adams says ‘no way’ to Russian athletes and you wouldn’t mess with her! She, possibly more than anyone has been directly affected by drug cheats, although it was a Belarussian that cheated her out of gold in London.
A report commissioned by WADA and a German documentary provide compelling evidence that there has been state-supported doping, possibly to the point of altering test results – clearly there are issues that can’t be denied. The Russians claim that with their administrative changes, these issue are being addressed.
A wee funny, the Russian government have appointed Putin to manage the fallout with the international community –  a bit like asking the lion to negotiate with the zebras!

Should all athletes from one country be punished for the sins of some and the clear wrong-doings of their administration? Is it reasonable that proven drug cheats from the past can compete when known, innocent athletes are banned?

Do the various organisations have the right view, let the athletes back on a case-by-case basis when proven clean? How will this work in practice – IAAF say that do not have the ability to test everyone comprehensively? Pass one test and you’re in? Does this make a mockery of the ban and just suggest  an IAAF power play?

Surely those that do qualify should be able to compete under their national flag. IAAF administrators appear to have forgotten that the sport is about the athletes, not the organisations and their politics. 

The IOC claim any Russian athletes must be ‘[a member] of the team of the Russian Olympic Committee because only a national Olympic committee can enter athletes… there are no teams of international federations’. Politics with the IAAF?, or has the IOC just forgotten there is a team of refugees from different countries competing under the Olympic flag?

The WADA  head says that there is need for a ‘cultural change’ in Russia. Is separation and banishment the answer?

Andoora, Argentina, Bolivia and Ukraine have all been declared non-compliant in their testing, why can they  still compete? Kenya has been put under the same regime as Russia by the IOC, although this is claimed to be due to a lack of testing facility in Kenya, rather than systematic doping.

Does this raise the question that all international testing should be under the control of WADA? Give them some real teeth as they struggle for relevance at times.

The Olympics are founded on the concept of international unity, does this decision put justice over tradition as some have suggested?

Why represent your country in sport?

Why represent your country in sport?

​There have been a number of recent examples of sports people opting out of international sports. The reasons cited vary, but the outcome is the same, the countries don’t have their best people representing them in sporting endeavours. Messi claims he is tired of Argentina losing (a true winner?), various golfers pulling out of the Rio Olympics on the back of the Zika virus (why is it just golfers?), Chris Gayle opting for the T20 circus (money and flash over national pride, or was he pushed? – ditto Kevin Peterson), NZ’s Brendon McCullum (clearly fit enough for T20), various rugby players – Charles Piutau and Nick Evans spring to mind (Euros and the overseas experience, fair enough?).

In professional team sports, has the interntational team just become another ‘brand’ to play for? Another contract to negotiate? Does it hold any extra ‘value’ over the cash and leverage?
Messi is interesting, international football has managed to keep the top players involved in the top tournaments, is this the start of a change? Is he really just a bad loser? Is it because of the shambles of Argentinian international football? 
Golfers fears of Zika, seems fair enough, are we just hearing more about golfers pulling out rather than other sports people? Golfers and tennis players regularly pull out of the Olympics, it is clearly optional in their views. Not enough money in it? Should a sport be at the Olympics when the top players don’t view the Olympics and country representation as the pinnacle? These sports have long established, prestigious (and well paid) gala events. It is a shame that the Olympics is so desperate to have them!
Cricket is about the money, but surely they can still squeeze in the odd international? Who wouldn’t want BMac back in the NZ T20 team? West Indies cricket is awash with play-for-pay players and appears in shambles with rumours of breaking up the individual island nations. Kevin Peterson has issues, but was he really pushed for the sake of team culture, believable – he seems to genuinely want to play for England, unlike McCullum?
Rugby as with cricket is clearly about the money, but then NZRugby policy (a blog entry in itself) and the lack of an international window don’t help. Many players either exit the international game early, or give up on possible All Black selection. Is this just the expected case of money and an OE for young people? If we looked at data from the amateur era would we actually find the same thing, young men (in the case of rugby) choosing travel and career over national representation?
Is money any more of a reason in professional than in amateur sports (now and in the past) in which sports people have to choose between training and performing, and making money? How many potential sports people did we not see?
Why bother with the Olympics as a pinnacle national representative competition for sports that have well established top tournaments?  
Do sports where club competition is considered to be at a higher competitive level than international (rugby league, basketball) or at least over hyped (ice hockey, baseball) need internationals? Players appear to enjoy the international experience with what appears to be a dose of nostaligia and duty at times.
Sports that competitors represent a country and a brand so dramatically – F1, Americas Cup (AC,now that deserves some questioning in its own right) – do we really need country representation? Do these sports people really consider that they are representing their country – England or Mercedes, Australia or Red Bull, New Zealand or Emirates? Do we maintain the quasi-country representation because it helps with sponsorship and broadcast deals?  

In the world of professional sport it would seem your country is at risk of becoming just another brand and money talks at the end of the day.