Shabby treatment from Aussie netball
Leopards don’t change their spots – Australian netball chiefs have been typically ruthless in their dealings with New Zealand over the future of the trans-Tasman championship.
Australia have often lauded it over their smaller cousins in sport.
Strange to think that in 1908 and 1912 a combined Australasian team entered the Olympic Games and, what’s more, in 1908, New Zealand walker Henry Murray was the team flag-bearer.
Such generosity from our neighbours ceased long ago.
Australia finally fronted for a cricket test against New Zealand in 1946. It was played on an appalling pitch at the Basin Reserve, and didn’t last two days. Not until 1973 did Australia consent to play another test.
In the intervening years they kindly sent B teams and let New Zealand teams play their state sides.
Even now it’s difficult for our cricketers to get a fair shake of the dice – when was New Zealand last invited to play in the prestigious Boxing Day test in Melbourne?
The ANZ netball championship has been running since 2008.
Four Australian teams have won it and only one New Zealand side, the Magic, in 2012. The Australians win more than twothirds of their matches against New Zealand sides.
Now the Australians plan to drop New Zealand and run a 17-week domestic competition involving eight teams.
New Zealand had leverage previously, because Sky Television was a major backer of the event.
Now Fox Sports and the Ten Network are on board, so it’s goodbye New Zealand.
The Australians seem happy to operate in splendid isolation, just as they have in Aussie Rules.
Perhaps they think their new netball competition will be like cricket’s IPL, or the English football premiership, with overseas stars bolstering a domestic competition.
Whatever happens, it will suit Australia, not New Zealand. It will cause international netball to become absurdly lopsided, but the Aussies don’t have the vision to be concerned about that.
It’s interesting comparing netball’s thinking with other sports.
In Super Rugby, New Zealand teams have won 13 of the 20 competitions.
Only one New Zealand team, the Hurricanes, have not won it.
By contrast Australian teams the Force and the Rebels, South African teams the Stormers, Kings, Sharks and Cheetahs, Argentina’s Jaguares and, of course, the new Sunwolves of Japan have not won it.
There have been no gripes from New Zealand, which embraces the international nature of the event.
New Zealand’s team in the National Rugby League, the Warriors, have made two finals, in 2002 and 2011, since their debut in 1995.
Apart from those efforts, the Warriors have been pretty undistinguished, but league officials value their presence.
The Phoenix have not made a final since their A-League football debut in 2007 and there was serious talk recently of dispensing with them, but they have hung on.
They enhance the A-League, even in their bad years.
The Breakers had an inauspicious beginning to their NBL basketball experience, losing nine of 10 games at one point in their debut season, 2003-04, and finishing last the next season.
But the NBL persisted and the Breakers, a crack side, have now won four titles.
They just needed time.
What a pity Australian netball wasn’t patient enough to learn that lesson.
The triumphant Magic players in 2012, when they won the ANZ Championship.