Tactix continue fight over player rules

Former Silver Fern Angela Mitchell has been named as the final netballer to join the Tactix squad, but the Canterbury franchise's fight over player-eligibility rules continues.

The Tactix yesterday confirmed Mitchell, 31, would join their squad for next year's ANZ Championship after Netball New Zealand (NNZ) turned down their application to include Australian shooter Jo Morgan.

Chief executive Andrew Hercus said he was pleased to have the "final piece of the puzzle" for the side but was disillusioned with the eligibility rules for overseas imports.

"We are not the only Kiwi franchise who have issues with the rules and we'd like to see something done," he said.

The five New Zealand teams in the trans-Tasman league can apply for two players who are ineligible to represent the Silver Ferns. Teams have the right to contract one ineligible player who is a New Zealand citizen. That provision was written into the rules to cater for the likes of Frances Solia and Catherine Latu, who grew up in New Zealand but played for other countries at the World Cup.

However, Hercus believed some teams were at a disadvantage, with the "reality" that there were only two players up to the standard who were on the market and fitted the criteria. "That basically leaves three teams to whom one ineligibility rule means nothing."

Franchises can also apply for another ineligible player usually an overseas netballer but it must be signed off by NNZ. That is in contrast to the rules Australian teams must abide by, with an ability to sign one ineligible player and a second import to be approved by Netball Australia. The Queensland Firebirds have again been granted two overseas imports.

Hercus said the franchise had appealed to Trans-Tasman Netball Ltd (TTNL), which ran the competition, to review the rules that governed eligibility.

"That process will take a considerable period of time because it's a fundamental change to the rules of the competition," he said.

It means the Tactix are consigned to losing Morgan, who is now without a team for the league, which begins in April.

The former Queensland Firebird was approached by the Tactix to join their shooting circle, but when new mother and former Fern Jodi Brown confirmed her availability, NNZ turned down the application for Morgan. Its stance was to ensure that a New Zealand player would not be disadvantaged by the inclusion of an import.

The Tactix had gained approval for English defender Sonia Mkoloma, who would join the team in March.

"We are fully anticipating, given the nature of our appeal with TTNL, that it will be a very difficult one for them to deal with at this time, so we've just got to get on with the 12 we've named," Hercus said.

He "felt" for Morgan, who had been caught up in the "red tape".

"Jo's been briefed on the situation and while she does understand it's Netball New Zealand's decision under the current eligibility criteria, it's still a difficult situation."

The Tactix, which finished eighth in the inaugural league this year, would meet this month for an initial camp. Mitchell will commute from Oamaru, where she is on maternity leave and works as a relief teacher.

She played for the Canterbury Flames from 1998 to 2002 before heading south to the Otago Rebels, where she played up until last year's final National Bank Cup season.

Mitchell grew up in Mid-Canterbury and played club netball in Christchurch alongside fellow Hearts club member Helen Mahon-Stroud, who now coaches the Tactix.


The Press