Netball shake-up

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 10:46 11/12/2012
mainland netball
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Bright future: Netball Mainland chief executive Pete Smith says the top of the south has an abundance of netball talent.

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Regular trans-Tasman championship games, a high performance-style centre for emerging talent and a pathway into the Tactix team will all stem from the new Netball Mainland zone, according to chief executive Pete Smith.

Smith, who moved from Nelson to Christchurch in 2011, was back visiting Nelson Netball, one of the 18 centres that fall under the Netball Mainland umbrella.

He spoke of the importance of Nelson to the success of Netball Mainland, and a need to take advantage of commercial opportunities around the game.

Last Friday Netball Tasman, which had encompassed five top of the south netball centres, ceased to exist. The 12 regional centres have merged into five zones following a restructuring by Netball New Zealand.

The zones are based around the five New Zealand-based ANZ Championship teams, with Nelson set to host more Mainland Tactix games in years to come.

"So long as I am involved, we have made a commitment that we will hold Tactix games in Nelson annually, " Smith said.

The Tactix will begin their relationship with Nelson by playing two games at the Trafalgar Centre in 2013. They are the season opener against defending champions, the Waikato- Bay of Plenty Magic, on Sunday, March 24, and a second Sunday afternoon game against Australian side, the Western Fever, on May 19.

As well as hosting the top team in the zone, Nelson will have some local talent in the Tactix team next season. Former Waimea College defender Zoe Walker is a newly contracted player, signing with the team last month.

Walker said she was "very stoked" to have an ANZ Championship contract and playing at home was an added bonus.

She said it had been a big decision to make, but she was excited by the opportunity.

"The idea of playing in front of such a big crowd hasn't really sunk in yet, let alone a Nelson crowd, but it will be cool to look up and see some familiar faces.

"It is also a bonus being able to come home for the weekend."

Along with centralising governance, the change from regional centres to zones will see the development of an under-23 competition. The train- on squad sits directly behind the Tactix, and is a clear pathway into the top team.

Another local has cracked that squad, with former Motueka High School captain Jess Drummond in the train-on team.

To ensure Nelson will continue to produce quality players, Smith said plans were in place for an emerging talent centre, with all the trappings of a high performance facility.

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"We are looking, certainly within the next three years, at setting up a satellite or hub . . . an emerging talent development centre for players, coaches and umpires.

"We have this philosophy that if we are going to develop our zone, we have to use the very best resources we have available. We will tap into High Performance Sport New Zealand resources, nutritionists, strength and conditioning, all the top world-class people.

"We are going to bring parts of that high performance branch into Tasman initially, to be able to run workshops and run coaching programmes, activities and events."

Smith said the absolute "bread and butter" of the game would remain the 85 to 90 per cent of people involved in netball because they loved it.

While looking after the game remains the top priority, Smith said one way to facilitate this was maximising its commercial potential. He said the commercial push was there to provide more resources to grow the game at the grassroots level.

"Netball is a brand, a product if they market themselves right . . . we are effectively a conduit into the female market. Understanding that and the opportunities we can provide for businesses that are interested in those markets is really critical."

With an active volunteer base, strong age grade teams and coaches, Smith said the Tasman region was a key area in the Mainland zone.

He said that while there might have been tensions in the past between the Tasman and Canterbury governing bodies, Netball Mainland was a new chapter.

"There has been a bit of history over the years, but to be perfectly honest, that is history now.

"We are looking at Tasman as a critical region. There is a massive amount of talent that sits here. The identity of Nelson netball remains, and it is really important that it does. The only change is that we now have a facility to help them be better. That is my job."

- Nelson

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