Fran­chise of­fers ray of light to hope­fuls

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUXWORTH

NORTH­ERN Rays coach Jil­lian Joyce is adamant the re­gion has more than enough ta­lent for the fran­chise to be com­pet­i­tive in the in­au­gu­ral Sap­phire League, but says they must act fast to lock up the re­gion’s best play­ers.

Joyce was yes­ter­day of­fi­cially an­nounced as coach of the Rays, who will rep­re­sent Townsville in part­ner­ship with the Cairns and Whit­sun­days net­ball as­so­ci­a­tions.

A two- month con­tract­ing win­dow has just be­gun and Joyce’s main fo­cus is on sign­ing as many top lo­cal play­ers as pos­si­ble.

“We have to move quickly, but we also have to be re­ally smart in what we do,” Joyce said last night.

“There’s some play­ers up here within this re­gion that are fan­tas­tic play­ers, and I think we can have a highly com­pet­i­tive team.

“But there’s six fran­chises in the south­east that are also very in­ter­ested in some of our play­ers. We need to make sure we’re mov­ing quickly to make sure those play­ers feel se­cure in the North.

“I’m re­ally con­fi­dent the pro­gram we’re of­fer­ing is go­ing to be hard to match.”

The Sap­phire Se­ries aims to bridge the gap be­tween the former Queens­land State Net­ball League – which fea­tured the Mag­netic North Steel­cats – and the elite level in­clud­ing Su­per Net­ball.

The Steel­cats will still field a team in the un­der­pin­ning Ruby League, with coach­ing ap­point­ments to be made in the new year.

Joyce said the Sap­phire Se­ries means play­ers avoid the tough choice of de­cid­ing whether to move south to chase their net­ball dreams, or stay at home to pur­sue em­ploy­ment or study.

The seven- team Sap­phire Se­ries will com­mence in June.

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