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Western Force’s return to Super Rugby spoiled by strong second half from NSW Waratahs



The Western Force have shown they aren’t in Super Rugby AU to make up the numbers after giving the NSW Waratahs a scare in their first outing at the SCG.

Following a first-round bye, the Force looked right at home on Saturday night in their first Super Rugby match since 2017 — when they were cut from the original competition — before falling 23-14.

They led until the 61st minute when NSW lock Tom Staniforth burrowed over the line, with the converted try opening up a six-point lead for the home side.

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The try came after Karmichael Hunt won his team a lineout with the first of his two 50-22 kicks, making an impression in his return off the bench from a hamstring injury.

The Force’s long-time skipper Ian Prior fittingly delivered his team’s first points with a penalty strike after 13 minutes.

Prior and fellow veteran Jono Lance, who joined from UK club Worcester, led a polished performance by the West Australian side, who had temporarily relocated to the NSW Hunter Valley.

Former Junior Wallabies winger Byron Ralston scored their opening try in the 28th minute when he barged past Waratahs number 10 Will Harrison, who was defending on the flank.

The Force led 14-7 at half-time with Waratahs prop Gus Bell securing some much-needed points with a 39th-minute try after a driving lineout.

NSW looked a different team after the break, playing with much more energy to keep the Force scoreless.

They still only managed the one try but it was enough to secure their first points after an opening-round loss to Queensland.

AAP



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Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds play out historic Super AU 18-18 draw



The Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds have played out an 18-all draw following a 90-minute contest in their Super Rugby AU encounter at Brookvale Oval in Sydney.

The contest was forced into a historic 10-minute Super Time period — the first played in Australia’s new domestic competition — when a last-minute try to Reds replacement Alex Mafi was converted by James O’Connor after the siren.

Neither side was able to break the deadlock in Super Time, much to the displeasure of the small crowd in attendance at the home ground of NRL club Manly.

The Rebels, who lost their Super Rugby AU opener to the Brumbies last weekend, had seemingly done enough to secure victory over the Reds when they led by 10 points with five minutes remaining following an intercept try to Billy Meakes.

But an O’Connor penalty goal in the 75th minute — after he had thrown the errant pass to Meakes — and Mafi’s last-gasp try, dashed the Rebels’ hopes of winning during regular time.

The exciting finish was in stark contrast to a dour first half played in mostly driving rain.

The Rebels, who were hosting the match in Sydney because of the recent coronavirus spike in Melbourne, opened the scoring with a penalty to five-eighth Matt Toomua in the eighth minute.

Bizarrely, given the wet conditions, the Rebels turned down another gift three points shortly after, declining a shot from in front of the posts only for Toomua to then attempt a long-range field goal from a returning line-out a minute later.

They still went to the break with a 6-0 lead after Toomua landed a second penalty.

The Reds, coming off last Friday night’s win over New South Wales in Brisbane, finally had something to cheer about at Brookvale Oval when O’Connor put Filipo Daugunu over in the left corner with a lovely long ball to the winger.

O’Connor then gave the Reds the lead for the first time with a 42-metre penalty.

It did not last long, though, with Wallabies star Reece Hodge — after surprisingly starting on the bench — sliding over for the Rebels’ second try in the 55th minute.

Super Rugby AU continues on Saturday night, with the Western Force making their debut in the competition when they take on the Waratahs at the SCG.

AAP/ABC



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Netball players still unsure about new Super Shot ahead of 2020 Super Netball season


With three weeks to run until the start of the 2020 Super Netball season, the sport’s leading domestic teams are dealing with unprecedented levels of uncertainty on and off the court.

The venues that will stage matches are yet to be decided and many players are juggling their own personal work challenges while still trying to maintain rigorous training programs.

Then there’s the task of adapting to the controversial new Super Shot rule, announced just over two weeks ago.

Diamonds Captain and Giants shooter Caitlin Bassett is one of many players still coming to terms with the decision, which will see two goals awarded for a successful shot from a designated part of the goal circle, during the last five minutes of each quarter.

Netball players jump for the ball under the goal post.
Caitlin Bassett is still coming to terms with the newly introduced Super Shot rule.(Supplied: GIANTS Netball)

It is a rule specific to Super Netball, and one that the netball community had fiercely rejected during a game-wide survey earlier in the year.

“I think it was fairly well publicised the fact that us players weren’t happy with the decision that was being made, particularly because it was out of our control,” Bassett said.

The 32-year-old, who slammed administrators on social media directly after the announcement was made, has told the ABC she’s still not sure the game is headed in the right direction.

“It’s hard to tell, obviously COVID is unprecedented and so many sports have suffered in terms of financial pressures and us as players are wearing that as well.

“We’re still on reduced rates and potentially still will be into next year so it does make it very hard.

Lightning left in the dark

Sunshine Coast Lightning coach Kylee Byrne says the way in which the decision was made without consultation didn’t go down well at her club.

A netball team surrounds its coach while they listen to her talk.
Lightning coach Kylee Byrne (middle) says she didn’t know about the rule until it was announced.(Supplied: Eyes Wide Open Images/Barry Alsop)

“We didn’t actually know anything about it,” she said.

“We were actually training on court and I had people hanging around the sidelines, so I knew something was happening in the background.

“Not that you need to know everything that happens operationally in a sport, but something as big as this only six weeks out from the start, I think it needed to be run by everyone.

Seeking clarity through review

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The players’ building negative sentiment has not gone unnoticed by Netball Australia, which has commissioned an independent review into the sport.

Called State of the Game, it will assess how all of the game’s participants, from grassroots to elite players to commercial partners, actually view the sport.

Chief executive Marne Fechner hopes it will provide a sense of clarity for everybody.

“Our aim is to capture the voices and experiences of our entire Australian netball family at a scale that hasn’t been done before,” she said.

“We want to capture a collective ambition for our game.”

Bassett says the decision is also putting the quality of the international product, which doesn’t have a Super Shot, at risk.

“The further we move away from international rules the harder it gets for players,” she said.

“I’m definitely a netball traditionalist and I like to keep in line with the international rules because for me at the end of the season it’s just natural progression.”

Players prefer ‘traditional’ game

A netball player holds the ball above her head ready to take a shot at goal.
Steph Wood believes the Super Shot rule will affect everyone on court, not just the shooters.(Supplied: Eyes Wide Open Images/Barry Alsop)

Lightning goal attack Steph Wood is one player whose stocks have risen because of the rule change.

The versatile attacker, who broke into the Diamonds squad in 2016, has a proven ability to shoot from range while her creative play around the goal circle often causes trouble for defenders.

But despite her playing prowess, Wood still has reservations.

“I liked the way the traditional game was,” she said.

“I talked to a few people and they were like, ‘oh well it’s really just affecting the shooters,’ but I don’t think it just affects them, I think it trickles all the way down the court.

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Wood isn’t sure how much the game will change in terms of strategy, although she does feel their own approach won’t be too different to what it has always been in the past.

“I prefer to shoot from further out,” she said.

“I get a little bit nervous when I get underneath the post, we have a running joke at training, you can see my arms shake when I get under the hoop.

“For defenders, a lot of the time you are trying to push shooters out towards the edge of the circle because it’s a lower percentage shot.

“Now you might have to think, depending on where the game is, you need to be pushing shooters towards the hoop so it will be very interesting to see how it pans out.”

Broadening netball’s fan base

Netball Australia says the Super Shot rule was ultimately introduced in an attempt to broaden the fan base of the sport, which is keeping a close eye on its financial position during the pandemic.

Netball is in the midst of a unique revenue-sharing broadcast rights deal with Channel Nine and Telstra, which was signed back in 2016.

It had led to more free-to-air coverage for the sport, but it has left netball more reliant on delivering eyeballs, given it gets paid a portion of the advertising revenue secured by its broadcast partners.

A netball player takes a shot at goal from under the ring.
Bassett says players have devised a manifesto which outlines their wants.(Supplied: GIANTS Netball)

Bassett says the players have taken action in order to secure more of a say moving forward.

“We’ve sat down as players recently and have come up with a manifesto.

“[It’s] basically what we as players want, the direction of the sport and what’s important to us.

“It’s more about developing us as human beings off the court, and that camaraderie and sisterhood you have in those team environments.”

The State of the Game review is due to be handed down in September and will be led by former Diamonds captain Liz Ellis.



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Brumbies beat Melbourne Rebels 31-23 as Australia’s Super Rugby AU continues



The Brumbies have picked up where they left off pre-coronavirus shutdown to post a thrilling 31-23 Super Rugby AU win over the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra.

There was rust early, but almost four months without a match has not diminished the Brumbies’ dominance over their Australian rivals.

Unbeaten in three matches against the Rebels, Waratahs and Reds before the suspension of the regular Super Rugby competition in March, the Brumbies’ latest victory confirms their favouritism for the revamped domestic tournament.

The Brumbies’ win follows the Reds’ 32-26 victory over the Waratahs in Brisbane in the opening Super Rugby AU encounter on Friday night.

With the Rebels forced to relocate to the national capital eight days ago due to the alarming spike in coronavirus cases in Melbourne, this evening’s showdown was billed as a new Canberra derby.

But Canberra Stadium, even in front of the only 1,500 spectators allowed in during strict COVID-19 restrictions, remains the Brumbies’ house despite a gritty second-half fightback from the Rebels.

Dan McKellar’s home side kept the Rebels try-less for almost an hour, while bagging four themselves to assume control.

Typically, the Brumbies’ first two five-pointers came after lineout wins.

Hooker Folau Fainga’a did superbly to back around after his throw in and then pop a lovely inside ball for winger Andy Muirhead to score untouched under the posts in just the third minute.

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Noah Lolesio’s conversion gave the hosts a 7-0 lead, before Matt Toomua cut the deficit to one point with two penalties as the Rebels’ scrum surprisingly dominated the Brumbies’ all-Wallabies front row.

After conceding four set-piece penalties in quick fashion, the referee warned the Brumbies a yellow card was coming next.

But they overcame their wobbles to open up a 19-6 half-time buffer.

The Brumbies’ signature driving maul delivered a try for lively half-back Joe Powell, then Fainga’a barged over for his sixth five-pointer in 2020.

The Brumbies looked like galloping to an easy win when the impressive Lolesio burst free to put winger Tom Wright over three minutes after the break.

But back-to-back Rebels tries to hooker Jordan Uelese and skipper Dane Haylett-Petty and Tooma’s third penalty of the night reduced the margin to one point.

The Brumbies were up for the grandstand finish, though, with replacement forward Will Miller sealing victory with the Brumbies’ fifth try three minutes from time.

AAP/ABC



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Queensland ends losing streak against New South Wales to launch Australian Super Rugby competition



The Queensland Reds have ended an 11-match losing streak against the New South Wales Waratahs, defying a second-half comeback to win 32-26 in Super Rugby AU’s launch this evening.

The Reds cruised to a 19-7 lead at Lang Park in Brisbane but suddenly looked like the team that had not beaten their border rivals in seven years.

Crushed in scrums and without the sin-binned Angus Bell for 10 minutes, the Waratahs still found a way to collect regular points and finished the half behind by just six.

Eight minutes into the second half they led by four when Jack Maddocks streamed on to a Lachie Swinton pass and through a gaping hole.

Harry Wilson sniffed out a five-pointer in reply though, before Taniela Tupou was sent to the sin-bin for taking out a kicker for the second time.

Waratahs five-eighth Will Harrison drilled an equaliser for the visitors but James O’Connor stepped up with a penalty of his own with three minutes to play.

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O’Connor then repeated the dose when the full-time siren sounded, with the Reds scoring four tries to two in front of 5,590 spectators.

Reds captain Liam Wright and Fraser McReight combined well in their first start together in the back row, while number eight Wilson continued his strong pre-coronavirus shutdown form.

Wright scored first and thought he had a second when he ran around the ruck to plant a loose ball in front of a sleeping Waratahs defence.

It was deemed offside though, as was a Tupou effort moments earlier as the Reds threatened to run away with the clash.

Tate McDermott darted in from a quick tap, while Filipo Daugunu crossed in the corner and Harry Johnson-Holmes burrowed over for the Waratahs’ first-half try.

The visitors gave away 18 penalties to the Reds’ nine, with tougher policing of the ruck and the novel 50-22 or 22-50 kicking rules both impacting play.

Super Rugby AU also includes the Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force.

The Brumbies and Rebels face off at Canberra Stadium tomorrow evening.

AAP/ABC



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Arsenal signs Matildas vice-captain Steph Catley in FA Women’s Super League



Matildas vice-captain Steph Catley has signed with English powerhouse Arsenal, becoming the latest Australian to head to Europe.

Catley joins Matildas teammate Caitlin Foord at the Gunners, where she will play under Australian manager Joe Montemurro.

Arsenal’s recruitment of Catley is another endorsement of the Matildas program in the build-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

“This is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Catley told Arsenal’s website.

“I’m so excited that it’s finally done. This will be my first taste of European football and obviously there’s so much to look forward to and so many big occasions to come. I can’t wait to get started.”

Several Australians, including key Matildas Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Hayley Raso (Everton) and Chloe Logarzo (Bristol City), now play in the FA Women’s Super League (FAWSL).

Meanwhile, fellow full-back Ellie Carpenter recently signed with French dynamos Olympique Lyonnais.

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Catley, 26, has been to two Women’s World Cups and an Olympic Games with the Matildas since making her debut as an 18-year-old in 2012.

The attacking full-back has scored three goals in 82 caps.

At club level, Catley has won five W-League championships — one at Melbourne Victory then four at Melbourne City.

She also played in America’s NWSL for Portland Thorns, Orlando Pride and OL Reign.

Catley previously played under Montemurro — who won the FAWSL with Arsenal in the 2018/19 season — at both Victory and City.

“We’re privileged to have Steph at the club,” Montemurro said.

“She suits our fluidity and she’s very good in a positional sense, but more importantly she’s very effective going forward.

“We’re excited to have her as part of the squad and we’re looking forward to some exciting times together.”

AAP/ABC



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Rush for early access to super causes ATO website to crash


Australians desperately trying to prise open their super as part of the government’s stimulus response for the coronavirus crisis has caused the Australia Taxation Office’s website to crash.

Within an hour into the new financial year which triggered the next round to grab another $10,000 from their own retirement as part of the early access scheme, the website froze due to high demand.

By 10am today, those seeking online services remained locked out after 2.4 million applied for the first instalment last financial year.

“We’re currently experiencing a high volume of traffic,” is currently displayed on the site.

“We understand significant numbers of people need to access our online services.

RELATED: Big problems with accessing superannuation early

RELATED: Aussies dipping into super could miss out on $200K

“We are proactively managing our online traffic so that systems continue to be available.

“We apologise for the inconvenience.”

The Federal Government made retirement funds available to those who have had their income plunged into doubt as a result of the coronavirus-induced shutdown and ensuing economic crisis.

Under the controversial scheme, those impacted by the outbreak were able to grab $10,000 from their super last financial year and another $10,000 from today until September 24, 2020.

The initiative was rushed into existence to assist the tens of thousands of Australians who had their income plunged into doubt as the lockdown created economic chaos and mass job losses.

But data released over the last few months indicate this emergency dip into vital retirement savings has been spent on online gambling, alcohol and takeaway food, not the essential household items it was intended for.

Real-time banking activity from Alpha Beta and Illion shows many of those who took advantage of the access increased spending on lifestyle items.

A sample of 13,000 people revealed 64 per cent of the scheme was spent on discretionary items such as clothing, furniture, restaurant food, gambling and alcohol.

“That tells us that much of this money was used for lifestyle reasons rather than necessity reasons,” Alpha Beta director and economist Andrew Charlton told the ABC last month.

“Superannuation is there for retirement, not for crises.”

MORE TO COME



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Super Rugby AU rule changes hoped to bring crowds back and change future of the game


It’s fair to say there will be many more eyes on Australia’s new domestic rugby competition when it kicks off this weekend than just those of the diehard fans.

Super Rugby AU is Australia’s equivalent of New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, and was quickly formed to fill the breach left by the 15-team, five-nations Super Rugby tournament which went into COVID-19-enforced hibernation in mid-March.

The future of that competition remains in limbo, with both South Africa and Argentina isolated and their new case curve still trending upwards. Japan’s Sunwolves were to be mothballed at the end of the 2020 season anyway, and though there were attempts to have them play in the new Australian competition, they’ve now played their last game.

Australia’s four Super Rugby sides — the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels, and the Brumbies — will be joined by the Perth-based Western Force in a full home-and-away competition played over 10 weeks plus two weeks of finals.

For the Force, it marks their return to top-flight Australian rugby for the first time since their axing from Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season.

Western Force players wait for a try decision during the World Series Rugby match against Fiji in 2018.
The Western Force will be welcomed back to the fold.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

But it’s the law variations in place that will draw the extra attention, and from the moment the Reds and Waratahs run out onto Brisbane’s Lang Park on Friday night. Behind every one of the changes is an intention to make a more enjoyable spectacle of the game for spectators, fans and players alike.

A couple are already in place over the ditch, with Super Rugby Aotearoa implementing 10 minutes of “golden point” extra time in the event of a scoreboard deadlock after 80 minutes.

The other is the allowance to replace a player sent from the field with a red card after 20 minutes. The sent-off player can’t play any further part in the game, but the contest can be restored to 15 players on 15, 20 minutes later.

Neither has been seen in New Zealand yet in three rounds, but Australia’s leading referee Angus Gardner is a fan.

“You definitely want the players to decide the game and as a ref you prefer to not make a decision that decides it,” he said last week, of the extra time allowance.

Gardner has been busy over the past fortnight, running live familiarity sessions around the new variations with the Waratahs and Rebels. The focus on the breakdown contest in Super Rugby Aotearoa — and the sharp upsurge in penalties — were a cause for concern initially, and were undoubtedly a reason Gardner and his colleagues were utilised during these intra-squad sessions around the country.

Ryan Louwrens holds a rugby ball in both hands and prepares to pass it away from a ruck
New rules around the breakdown have sped up play, but has also seen an initial uptick in penalties.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

“They’re really rewarding speed to the breakdown, I think for us that’s going to highlight our breakdown presence,” Rebels backrower Michael Wells said, his side spending this week of preparation in Canberra to escape the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Melbourne.

“Attacking wise, you can’t be slow; you have to be really fast. Defensively, if you have a good on-ball presence you’re really going to get pay out of it. I think that was the biggest thing about having Gus [Gardner] here, just to be exposed to those new rules, because it’s different watching it in the New Zealand comp,” Wells said.

But the breakdown focus is having a positive impact already over the Tasman. In half a dozen games over the first three rounds in New Zealand, the rugby on display has been wonderful to watch, no doubt spurred on by huge crowds now allowed with no restrictions in place.

Fans applaud as players line up in the foreground
Super Rugby Aotearoa has returned to huge crowds.(Photosport via AP: Joe Allison)

The crowds will be much smaller when Super Rugby AU kicks off on Friday night, but it’s certainly hoped the rugby is no less exciting. Rugby Australia is also hoping the decision to go a bit further with law variations will have an impact, too.

Several of them roll over from last season’s National Rugby Championship, in which a rampant Western Force ran away with the title. The line drop-out allowance, which rewards the defending team if they’re able to hold the attacking team up in-goal, works as a faster way of restarting play instead of a five-metre scrum that risks multiple resets.

And 50-22 and 22-50 kicks carry over too, borrowing from rugby league’s 40-20, which will force teams to defend differently at the back, as well as open up attacking opportunity.

“Does that open up more space in the front line to play ball in hand?” Rebels attack coach Shaun Berne wondered.

“And if they don’t defend that back field, are we then able to kick and find those 50-22s?”

The players themselves can already see opportunities.

“It’s going to break some teams when we find that space and take those opportunities, it’s going to hurt a lot of teams,” Brumbies centre Irae Simone offered from Canberra.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney loves the removal of calling for a mark in the defensive 22 from kicks originating in the same portion of the field. But he’s equally wary of the architect of the idea.

“I am a bit worried about Matt Toomua and the impact that he is going to have. He is such a talented 10 and he has the ball on a string really,” Penney said of the Rebels and Wallabies flyhalf.

“I thought it was a real breath of fresh air to hear Matt talking about what could be really good for the game.”

A male rugby union player kicks the ball from a penalty goal attempt with his right foot.
Matt Toomua could have a huge impact with his boot under the new rules.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

As Rugby Australia works to negotiate its way to new TV deal for 2021 and beyond, the hope is that these variations and the exciting rugby it anticipates will result will be really good for the game over a longer term. Arguably, the future of the professional game is counting on it.

But the condensed campaign means there won’t be time for the five sides to work their way into contention. Most agree the Brumbies start overwhelming as the favourites, given they were running second overall when Super Rugby was suspended.

Brumbies prop James Slipper says that just means the side is already determined to pick up where they left off back in March.

“It’s always important to start well,” he said.

“We actually addressed that this year in Super Rugby and we did start well.

“What you find is when you have a good start is you try and build on that momentum and that winning habit.”

Super Rugby AU Round 1 fixtures

Friday: Queensland Reds vs NSW Waratahs, Brisbane 7:15pm AEST

Saturday: ACT Brumbies vs Melbourne Rebels, Canberra 7:15pm AEST

Western Force have the bye.



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Super Netball’s super shot rule change panders to those with no stake in the game


You are running a widely popular, predominantly female sport that has stood the test of time.

The game has evolved from its conservative roots; it has embraced semi-professionalism and become pleasingly dynamic; it has forged a storied international rivalry that has produced some of the most dramatic moments in Australian sport; it has withstood challenges from voracious competitors and maintained an enormous participant base.

It has even welcomed men to play in their own leagues and mixed competitions — even if they sometimes find it hard to check their fragile egos at the locker room door and keep their pointy elbows to themselves.

But you’ve looked at the TV ratings, you’ve compared the sponsorship model with other predominantly male sports and you want more eyeballs on your domestic competition.

A netballer jumps up and extends her arm as she prepares to pass over the defence.
Super Netball bosses want more people to watch its domestic competition.(AAP: Jono Searle)

So you’re thinking about making a radical rule change, one that will alter the most fundamental element of the game — scoring.

Naturally, you first take the proposal to your competition committee and carefully weigh their input.

Then you run it by the Players’ Association. Not because the lunatics run your asylum. Because, well, maybe the people who are actually going to be bound by this rule might have some practical suggestions about its application?

You have a quiet coffee with some ex-players and even the media types who are tapped into the thoughts of the fans and the game’s wider community to gauge potential reaction.

Two netball opponents stoop to get their hands on the ball in a contest.
Netball has developed a compelling international rivalry between Australia and New Zealand without the gimmicks.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

This is exactly what the Super Netball Commission did NOT do before springing the introduction of a two point “super shot” on its players and fans just six weeks before the start of the season.

This non-consultation process, almost as much as the two-point shot, has caused uproar among the very people who should have had the greatest say in such a radical change.

Instead, the Super Netball commissioners made a mistake common among sports desperate to increase their “reach” — instead of asking what those who love netball wanted, they asked themselves what those who are mostly indifferent to the sport might hypothetically want.

In one sense, bypassing the people who are the cornerstone of your sport and bastardising your game for the edification of those who ticked the “have some interest” box on a fan engagement survey is understandable, even essential.

Caitlin Basset smiles looking over her shoulder
Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett said on Instagram she half-expected the next innovation to be to wear skimpier outfits.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

Sporting stalwarts are notoriously conservative. Cricket’s transition from Test to One Day to Twenty20s involved endless anguished debates pitting so-called traditionalists against the perceived desires of less cricket-savvy consumers.

The obvious difference is that cricket has imposed most of its changes on two new formats. Test cricket remains virtually as it was, albeit now crammed into a schedule dominated by limited-overs fixtures and with those ghastly numbers on the shirts.

Netball, on the other hand, has taken a gimmick from its own short-form game, Fast5, and imposed it on the second highest level of the sport without so much as a “What do you guys think?” in a competition committee Zoom meeting.

An Australian netballer shapes to pass the ball as she stands outside the two-point shot line.
The Super Shot Zone will become a feature of Super Netball, against the wishes of the majority of players.(AAP: Mark Evans)

No wonder a member of that committee, Diamonds’ star Jo Weston, was apoplectic when the news dropped via press release during the week.

Weston told The Guardian she was not just disappointed with the “insulting” lack of consultation, but by the rule itself.

Which makes you wonder if Super Netball teams will jog onto the court this season or arrive stuffed in a mini minor given the apparent desperation of the game’s administrators to pander to the non-fan.

The one-off media sugar hit of a radical rule change is far easier than the hard yards of long term grassroots engagement, clever promotional campaigns and relationship building with broadcasters.

Former West-Tigers chair Marina Go is now the Super Netball Commission chair and she admitted some inspiration had been taken from Australian Rugby League Commission chief Peter V’landys’ recent NRL rule changes.

This attempt to imitate the “innovative changes” in rugby league has proven about as popular with netball diehards as telling them players will wear lingerie and games will be played in a giant tub of jelly.

A female netball player holds the ball behind her head as she prepares to shoot for goal.
Netball’s super shot would change the very fabric of the game.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Yet, gallingly for the game’s ignored insiders, the change has gained support from the type of casual high-profile observers who are unlikely to be at a Super Netball game after the last canape in the corporate hospitality area disappears.

So what’s wrong with the “super shot” (to be taken from a designated spot inside the circle in the last five minutes of each quarter)?

The most obvious problem is that all goals will not be created equal. An artfully worked full court move that gets the ball into the hands of the goal attack will not be worth as much as a long bomb executed during an arbitrary time period.

It also perverts the power balance because a team that has gained the ascendency in general play can have its hard-earned lead erased by a couple of freak shots.

But don’t take my word for it.

I stand to be corrected by those who have played the game at all levels or who have spent years in the crowd or on the media bench at Super Netball games.

The kind of people who should be the first consulted when a beloved sport makes a radical change for the benefit of those who usually couldn’t care less.

All the latest sports news and issues including Australia’s 2023 Women’s World Cup bid will be discussed on Offsiders on ABC TV at 10:00am on Sunday.



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Super Netball confirms controversial new two-point shot, just six weeks before the 2020 season


Super Netball have run countless polls and surveys floating the idea of a two-point shot over the past few years.

But despite the fact fans and players have always been opposed to the idea, today the league announced it would be implementing the rule for the 2020 season.

The ‘Super Shot’ will come into play in the last five minutes of each quarter and must be put up by a goal attack or goal shooter in the designated zone from at least 1.9m away from the basket on the edge of the circle.

Super Netball CEO Chris Symington said the rule would add an element of “thrill” to the game and that the “time was right” for more innovation.

The sport has used two and three-point shots before in its Fast 5 format, likened to cricket’s T20 and rugby union’s Sevens versions of the game.

But fans have always been adamant that these types of gimmicks were fine as long as there was a clear distinction between the use of them in Fast 5 tournaments and not in elite competitions.

Back in March, Netball Australia put on an Australian Diamonds and Super Netball All Stars bushfire charity relief match, where the two-point shot was also trialled as a one-off exhibition match rule.

This sparked further debate amongst the community as to whether it had a place in traditional netball and again, there was a resounding no from the sport’s fans and players.

The league recognised this angst and even published examples of these reactions on its Super Netball website.

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Most took this as a sign their voices had been heard, which feeds into part of their outrage around the announcement today.

Chair of Super Netball, Marina Go, defended the league’s decision on Twitter this afternoon.

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But the players don’t seem to be on board with her reasoning for the idea.

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National team captain Caitlin Bassett took to Instagram to declare her position, suggesting netball’s next change to make it more “entertaining” would be to wear skimpier outfits like lingerie football.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Vixens were quick to release a statement that the club and its players had not been given any warning the rule change was coming.

Head coach Simone McKinnis declared she was “shocked” and that the news was “out of the blue”, just six weeks before the season starts.

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But NSW Swifts head coach Briony Akle took a different approach.

“Every team is in the same boat so it’s the ones who react quickest who’ll be successful,” she said.

“We’ve got some work to do but I know my players can rise to a challenge.”

A netball coach stands facing the court, with her hands outstretched palms down to calm her team.
Swifts coach Briony Akle is trying to lower tension levels at her club over the new ‘Super Shot’ rule.(AAP: Gary Day)

The reigning champions coincidentally polled their social media followers just last week, asking for opinion on this topic.

And although Paige Hadley and England’s Helen Housby have both expressed their position against the two-point shot, it looks like their coach won’t be letting them dwell on the matter any longer.

“Twenty years ago our best Australian shooters could score from anywhere in the circle and our defenders had to match them,” Akle said.

“Liz Ellis and Cath Cox came from this era and they had pretty good careers, didn’t they?”

Super Netball is due to start on August 1, with fixtures still yet to be released.



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