Netball rule under fire

WARRNAMBOOL and District league netball officials have defended a new rule they hope will become an official bylaw in coming years.

The WDFNL this season asked clubs to name five players who would play in A grade and could not drop into a lower side for the season.

The rule follows a long-standing Netball Victoria verdict that states a side needs at least five players on the court to start a match, otherwise it forfeits.

But it has sparked frustration among club coaches, who say it limits their ability to move players between their A grade and A reserve sides.

There is also concern that top players returning from injuries would be unable to ease their way back through A reserve, as footballers do through the reserves.

Dennington coach Sue Fleming said locking players into A grade made it tough to promote players, “particularly if you don’t have great numbers”.

“All it’s done is restrict the team. You can’t make judgment calls before the season starts,” she said. “You can try and put together a team you’ll be comfortable with but form will show over a period of six to eight weeks what that is.

“Junior players in development aren’t getting an opportunity to move up because we’ve got minimum five players who are locked in.”

Timboon Demons coach Hayley Plozza said she was likewise disappointed with the lack of flexibility the rule provided.

“I didn’t like the fact it gave you no freedom in selecting players based on their performances at the start of the season,” she said. Plozza said the rule served little purpose given an existing bylaw, which prevented players from dropping back after eight matches in a higher grade, was in place.

The Standard is aware of other coaches who disagree with the rule. But WDFNL netball chairwoman Lyn Bull said the rule was in place for valid reasons.

“You have to have five players to take the court. Therefore, we believe that for an A grade team, they should be able to name five players,” she said.” Bull said clubs who wanted to drop one of the nominated five players into A reserve were free to put their request to the league in writing.

At least one club has done that already this season. The league granted the request with little fanfare.

“Because everyone does pre-season training, I can’t understand that a club couldn’t name five,” Bull said.

“We believe whether you’re a weak team or a strong team, you put your five best players in A grade and you’ve got all the others to work around.”

Allansford coach Mel Harrop and her Deakin University counterpart Kim Jamieson also backed the rule.

Harrop said the rule was “about putting enough names to create a team”. She did not believe A reserve players were unable to earn promotion to A grade.

“I think what the league is asking the clubs to do is a fair thing. We need to put some names on a sheet that we know are our best A grade players,” she said.

Jamieson said there were ways for clubs to swap players between sides — something she had to do as Timboon Demons coach two years ago.

“I had a player who was new to the club. I put her in A grade, I think she played four or five games in A grade and then found out she just struggled,” she said.

“I popped her back to A reserve and brought one of my A reserve players up. I made the phone call and put it in writing, there was no issue.”

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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