A collaborative approach will see a new South Island provincial netball tournament launched next month.
Netball South and Netball Mainland have joined forces to develop the initiative, allowing provinces to field representative teams at senior level to provide a competitive platform to further enhance player pathways.
The inaugural South Island Senior Championships will be staged at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin from September 27-29 and feature premier teams from throughout both Zones.
Netball South chief executive Lana Winders said the competition would be a vital opportunity for exposure for players over 20, eager to break into the sport’s top echelon.
“We have loved the Beko Netball League and everything it has done to prepare players for entry into our Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel team. Homegrown talented players are now dominating our Steel roster like never before,” she said.
“But not every club player gets a fair suck of the sav when it comes to opportunity to push their way into Beko contention. In our current national representative tournament structure, players over the age of 20 are relying on club games to be seen by selectors and that’s not good enough. This South Island Senior Championship is about rectifying that.”
Netball South performance manager Jo Morrison expected the competition to have a positive impact.
“Everyone develops at different rates and the current competition structure limits the opportunities for players over the age of 20 years old. This is a fantastic opportunity to give those late bloomers a chance to develop and shine,” she said.
Netball Mainland performance manager Jen Hooper said benefits would extend across all facets of the game.
“Netball Mainland is excited the opportunity of participating in the South Island Provincial netball tournament provides for not only the Zones players but coaches, managers and umpires. This will fill the gap that we currently have in the pathway,” she said.
Designed to reignite the regional rivalry which was a hallmark of previous competitions such as the Lois Muir Challenge, the championship would set a high standard to aid the development of players.
Winders said netball centres in both Zones had previously expressed their concerns regarding the lack of opportunities available to high performing players over the age of 20 who were no longer catered for by traditional national age group tournaments.
“A gap in the performance pathway has emerged in recent years. Those players over the age of 20, unable to crack into the Beko team, found themselves with no representative team to strive for,” she said.
“It has had repercussions throughout the netball system. It became incredibly difficult for older players to display their talents in anything other than a club game which can be discouraging.
“They deserve a chance to showcase their talent and challenge themselves in higher intensity competitions.”
The new tournament will be held annually, rotating between venues within the two Zones