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The Australian netball team is the best in the world, yet Lauren Ford is one of the few people in the country who can name the team captain…isn’t it about time we changed the game?
One of the most patronised sports in Australia is the female dominated game of netball. Originally started as “women’s basketball”, netball has enjoyed great success over the past decades. This success can be attributed to many different areas of sport and society, however it would be hard to ignore the ongoing triumph of Australia’s national team; The Diamonds.
Like many of our national teams, they enjoy tremendous success in their sport and are currently the number one ranked team in the world, following a recent victory in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
However, despite this success and the popularity of the sport, netball continues to be largely overlooked on the stage of major sporting events. Coming up in August of this year, Sydney is hosting the Netball World Cup.
With sixteen participating nations including New Zealand, England and Jamaica, the event is set to be a fantastic nine days of sporting excellence. On the back of the Australian Cricket Team’s success in the Cricket World Cup in March of this year, you wouldn’t be crazy to assume that this event will attract huge crowds.
However, like a great deal of female dominated sports, it doesn’t attract the crowds, money or sponsorship deals of its male counterparts. This is evident when buying tickets for the Netball World Cup. For just over $100, you can get an all-day ticket to watch up to seven games of first class netball, all in one venue. Now whilst this isn’t logistically possible with many other sports, there are a few that would be able to hold multiple games on the same day in the same location. Despite this fact, this type of arrangement seems unique to netball and the Netball World Cup.
It is one of the many idiosyncrasies of the netball world. In the current national team, the majority of women in conjunction to being first class athletes also hold full time jobs. Several decades ago, this was common place amongst many male athletes in the NRL, AFL and other sporting codes. Today, it would be almost unheard of except in a few isolated cases.
Along with the issue of not being able to make an adequate living out of their sport, netballers are not household names or even recognisable by the general public. Whilst it was once said that the second most important role in Australia was the captain of the national cricket team, a small percentage of people would recognise Laura Geitz; the current captain of the Diamonds.
This lack of recognition is paralleled with the lack of television coverage that this sport receives. With NRL, AFL, Cricket and Soccer have a significant portion of their games shown in prime time, netball is generally seen on a Sunday afternoon. Whilst the NRL Grand Final of 2014 drew a television viewing audience of 2.687 million viewers nationally, the Grand Final of last year’s Trans-Tasman ANZ Netball Championship drew just 300 000 viewers in both Australia and New Zealand.
Netball, and the issues associated with it, are merely symptomatic of a larger problem associated with womens’ sport not being taken seriously. Who can forget the Channel 7 reporter asking internationally ranked tennis player Eugenie Bouchard to twirl after a match?
Maybe one day society will reach a point where no one has to twirl on live television.