A highly skilled and athletic game, that doesn’t have the money of AFL/NRL, has come together in a hub and sacrificed any money they do have to get their season started.
This succinct preview of the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season comes courtesy of Sharni Layton, 46-time Australian netball representative and veteran of more than 140 national league matches. The season, having been stymied by COVID-19 for three months, will start on August 1 in the bubble generously provided by the Queensland government. Super Netball’s return is a testament to the determination and organisation of all involved and, fingers crossed, the season will proceed to its conclusion.
Layton’s response came amid criticism of a TV preview in The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald in which critic Bridget McManus tried to say that netball had emerged from a past in which it was unfairly trivialised, only to be accused of unfairly trivialising it all over again. The stink provided for a clever online clip from the Melbourne Vixens, contrasting the preview’s references to “schoolgirl”, “workplace bonding” and “glamour” with the reality of the professional game.
Or even the amateur game. Having played workplace-bonding netball with some ex-schoolgirls a few years ago, this correspondent didn’t detect, much less provide, a lot of glamour. Referees were always glaring at me and calling “contact” which, as a nickname, was an improvement on “four-eyes” but still ended up with routine expulsions from the court. A challenging game to play, netball is one of the few sports that loses nothing from the translation to TV.
One thing netball doesn’t need is male defenders (or, in my case, male wing defenders). The national league has stood firmly on its own two feet for long enough not to need the adumbrations of sex appeal, or any other appeal except the strength of the competition itself.
Netball is played by more Australians than cricket or either of the rugby codes, it has enjoyed solid television audiences for many years, and when the Diamonds have won any of their 11 World Cups and three Commonwealth Games gold medals, the bandwagon has made room for all. The NSW Swifts will need to defend their championship over the coming months as keenly as the NRL’s Roosters or the AFL’s Tigers.
Given that the title will be at stake without the consolations of large pay-packets, arguably the fight will be even more competitive – and let’s hope for the rest of the season the only offence that will be given and taken will be on the court.