Netball side’s axing leaves rising stars in the lurch

CAMPERDOWN netballer Emma Wright says Ballarat Pride’s demise could pave the way for a south-west team to enter the Victorian Netball League (VNL).

Netball Victoria has axed the Pride from next season.

The VNL’s nine remaining clubs’ licences were renewed for a further three years.

Ballarat can reapply for its licence but will have to compete with other franchises for the vacant spot for the 2015, ’16 and ’17 seasons.

Wright spent the past two seasons at the Pride before family and travel commitments forced her to step aside this year. The Magpies defender, who played championship grade, said it was important regional centres had access to quality netball programs.

She said a south-west VNL team would be the ideal result, but was aware of the many obstacles which would face such a franchise.

“Hampden is pretty strong so it would be good if it gave it a go so a lot more girls could play at that level,” Wright said.

“A group would have to get it together, it wouldn’t so much be the league.” Wright said she was disappointed to hear of Pride’s axing on Tuesday.

The news came eight rounds into a new season.

Ballarat’s three sides — championship, division one and under 19 — sit at the foot of the ladder in their respective grades.

The Pride has won one of 24 matches from across the three grades to start the 2014 season.

“It’s sad for Ballarat and here as well because it’s the closest place you can play at that level, especially for girls in Warrnambool — the next place is Geelong which is another hour,” she said. 

“I was surprised because I know the under 19s made finals last year and the year before.

“It’s not just one team, it is three teams missing out when it’s not renewed.”

Wright said playing VNL, which plays the majority of its games on Wednesday nights, had a positive impact on her netball.

“I really liked it. The girls are great. I got a lot out of it,” she said.

“My skills improved a lot even though I am older than the other girls were.” Hampden netball stalwart Pam Davis said Netball Victoria echoed Wright’s disappointment.

“That is very sad,” she said.

“I know at times they have struggled with results but it’s such a good pathway and opportunity, a pathway for our senior girls to go up there and save a lot of travel.”

Davis said it was important new options were made available to the region’s brightest prospects.

“I suppose they go to Geelong or we re-strengthen the state league as a form of talent identification.” Netball Victoria chief executive officer Michelle Plane said the decision was born out of a review into the VNL.

“We have one of the strongest netball competitions in Australia and we are continually looking at opportunities for Netball Victoria to lead the way and provide our athletes, coaches, umpires and officials with the best pathway development possible,” she said.

“The review looked at the best ways of ensuring sustainability of both the individual clubs and the league itself.”

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