Merged Netball South challenge to new CEO

WHEELS TURN: New Netball South CEO Sue Clarke previously worked as the event director for the Junior World Track Cycling Championships in Invercargill this year.
WHEELS TURN: New Netball South CEO Sue Clarke previously worked as the event director for the Junior World Track Cycling Championships in Invercargill this year.

New Netball South chief executive Sue Clarke faces a difficult first challenge in the job - bringing Southland and Otago together as one.

The two provinces have not always seen eye to eye as to how best to run the region's flagship netball side, Southern Steel, over the past five years.

Under Netball New Zealand's new governance structure, which has divided the country into five zones, they simply have no choice, but to get along. Netball Southland and Netball Otago have now merged together to form one entity and Clarke said she was determined to get everyone in the lower South Island singing from the same songsheet.

"We'll be getting out there and getting people to now understand what we're about. We are Netball South and we do cover from Waitaki south. We're a very large region," she said.

"That's one of the reasons why I applied. I like change. I like projects with some potential in them and I think this has got a huge amount of potential," she said.

Clarke said the Netball South region was not just Southland and Otago, and believed that the Central Otago area was an "untapped territory" for playing talent.

Netball South were already advertising for a development officer in Central Otago and she said it needed to have someone on the ground there.

Clarke did not originally apply for Netball South's top job when it was first advertised because she was an appointed board member. Once the role was readvertised after top choice David Bannister turned down the job to head back to Australia, she was intrigued by the position and opted to apply.

"I'd been to a few board meetings and could see lots of great people involved already, and the opportunities we could utilise to grow the entity stronger."

Netball South chairman Paul Buckner said the appointment panel were impressed by her credentials.

"She not only brings valuable experience to the role, but also an incredible amount of passion and enthusiasm for what can be achieved," he said.

"We are thrilled to have Sue leading Netball South and confident she will play a significant part in our future success."

Clarke believed the new zone structure was paramount for the sport of netball in New Zealand. Several of the trans-Tasman netball league franchises had experienced financial difficulty in recent years, and she believed sharing resources and operating under one banner would be beneficial for all parties.

"We can't afford all the sport we have in New Zealand. We're only a little country. There's just not enough money around to support everything we can do," Clarke said.

"(Netball New Zealand) said we need to have a really good look at how we manage the main women's sport in New Zealand . . . I think what they've done is really sensible."

Clarke is more than familiar with the Steel region. She grew up in Invercargill and has also lived in Clinton and Dunedin.

She brings a wealth of experience to the role with an array of successful projects to her credit, including the UCI Junior Track World Championships, staged in Invercargill earlier this year.

She also played a key logistics role in the successful delivery of Dunedin's Rugby World Cup Games last year, and served as executive officer at Squash Southland from 1999 to 2001.

She will based in Netball South's headquarters of Invercargill for the majority of the role, but will also travel around the region.

A major emphasis for the Southern Steel franchise over the past year has been providing young players from within the lower South Island with opportunities.

Clarke said it was imperative moving forward and was excited about working with netball from the grassroots to elite level.

"I think that's the way we'll get our home crowd back throughout the region, because they know ‘that's my friend's daughter or that's my granddaughter', she said.

"We've had some stellar times and that's where we want to get back to."

Clarke will start in the job on February 1.

The Southland Times