Kate Moloney (left) and Gabi Simpson ahead of the 2019 Super Netball season. Picture: AAP
Kate Moloney (left) and Gabi Simpson ahead of the 2019 Super Netball season. Picture: AAP

Netball stalls on reaching ‘ultimate goal’

NETBALL Australia is now questioning whether its long-held ambition of full-time professionalism is the best outcome for athlete wellbeing.

After the announcement of its landmark pay deal three years ago ahead of the launch of the new Super Netball domestic league, NA declared its aim of having fully professional athletes within five years.

But NA chief executive Marne Fechner said the sport's governing body was now questioning whether this was the best path to take to ensure that its players were balanced and also prepared for life after sport.

"I think there is a natural assumption in sport that full-time professional sport is the ultimate outcome,'' Fechner said.

"I suppose we are questioning that at the moment in terms of well is it? What do the athletes really value about potentially maximising their return and benefit in a part-time capability by being able to continue that emphasis on study and the wellbeing component by being your other self and stepping away from the game.

"It's a really interesting conversation that the athletes are at the centre of. That will be a focus in terms of where we go. The professionalism of sport is this natural assumption that you keep walking down that path.

"With the wellbeing lens on like never before and rightly so, I think that's a fundamental question to ask - is it the best environment that we can be creating for our athletes that means that they are well-rounded and balanced and ready for life after elite sport?"

Previously on contracts for seven months of the year in the former trans-Tasman league, players are now on 12-month part-time contracts, averaging 20 hours a week.

Is professionalism best for player wellbeing? Picture: AAP
Is professionalism best for player wellbeing? Picture: AAP

There may be tweaks to the players' pay deal for the back two years of the current broadcast rights arrangement - which ends in 2021 - but Fechner did not anticipate any "significant changes". She said the next "big piece" would be after 2021 with the new broadcast rights deal.

Fechner said NA had some "anecdotal" feedback from players that balance was important to them, but needed to investigate this more.

"These are not decisions that we can make without being in lock-step with the athletes," Fechner said.

"We need to be looking after our athletes and providing them with an opportunity and the environment to thrive … while they're on a 12-month contract, they are a part-time athlete still."