Netball Expert & Columnist
Tamsin Greenway believes netball must pull together as one for global benefits
"I say we take the threats off the table and start looking at constructive ways for governing bodies, players and clubs to get the very best out of every season and cycle"
Last Updated: 15/11/19 5:01pm
In this week's column, Tamsin Greenway gives her thoughts about the reported tension within netball in Jamaica and looks at the wider topic of the club, country and player pull as the sport becomes increasingly professional around the world.
Over the past few weeks there have been a lot of reports coming out of Jamaica talking about discord between the players that represented the Sunshine Girls at the Netball World Cup and the governing body.
Jamaica will return to English soil for the Vitality Nations Cup in January to form a four-team competition instead of the usual Quad Series.
It's rumoured that Australia wanted their players to rest so stepped away from the usual make-up. It marks a great opportunity for Jamaica but there's a huge amount of uncertainty around the Sunshine Girls and the squad that they'll be arriving with.
We don't know all of the details, all we've seen are reports out of Jamaica about players being invited to trial and then responses apparently not being sent back which has resulted in majority of their World Cup squad looking like they will be left out in January.
I just think that it's such a sad state of affairs. It's not the first time that we've seen a club versus country player-pull, it's happening all around the world but in several different ways.
I personally haven't spoken to any of the Jamaican players but it is such a shame that players and governing bodies seem to be getting themselves into such difficult positions.
The apparent tension within Netball Jamaica and the difficulties that they look to be facing aren't an isolated incident though, and it's certainly not the first time that there have been player-governing body conflicts in netball across the world.
What's different now is that we're talking about and we're reporting about it, which governing bodies and players haven't always been able to do. However this comes with its own issues and isn't always met with a positive reaction.
Moving forward into the professional era, netball has a much larger voice and things like this are going to be, and have to be discussed in the wider environment.
Speaking from experience, I remember during the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2011 World Cup cycle, the ANZ had been up and running for a couple of years and we had a situation where Geva Mentor and Sonia Mkoloma were choosing to go out and play in Australia for the season.
I remember sitting in a meeting and the premise was, if you decided to go and play in the ANZ then you wouldn't play for England and all of the players said 'No, that's not happening, we're not going to this competition without these two'. We made the point that we wanted them with us and placing a rule like that was only going to cause tension.
If you look at Jamaica's squad from the World Cup, nearly all of them have had (or will have) overseas experience and that also has massive implications.
Once you've played in Australia, New Zealand or in the English Superleague, you begin to see how things operate and what's starting to happen in terms of professionalism. Clubs worldwide are starting to build these professional environments and players are aware that it doesn't always sit in line with what the governing bodies want.
As a result, at times, players, club, coaches and the governing bodies are all coming to loggerheads.
Now I'm definitely not saying that this should be about player power because it can't be like that either. But, surely we've got to start getting to a point where players, clubs, coaches and countries aren't clashing.
We've got so much talent all over the world at the moment, it'd be such a shame to not look at the bigger picture of brand netball rather than have so many different internal political issues going on.
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I think there are many ways we can begin to tackle these issues, a good starting point is the calendar.
We all know at the minute that Superleague still clashes with Suncorp which clashes with ANZ. It's a fantastic opportunity for players, but it's still seen as a real threat to the governing bodies, losing players overseas, not having them back with the international teams for long periods.
For many of the African and Caribbean nations that's not only a problem for development at home but has massive financial implications. Countries simply can't afford to be flying their players back and forth for training camps and the windows to do this are limited.
I'm not saying it's an easy fix but a global season, that at least works for the top six to eight countries in the world as a starting point would surely have its advantages. You only have to look at the rise of England and South Africa having regular opportunities against New Zealand and Australia.
I'd love to see that happen for the likes of the top African and Caribbean nations too. I want to see the best players in the world in the best leagues, but I also want to make sure that their home country has the same support to improve world netball. I don't think we want a situation where club netball becomes more powerful than the INF?
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Closer to home
We don't need to look too far from home to see the difficulties some of the England players are facing. You only have to look at the amount and quality of players taking some international time off.
This is not unusual after a World Cup, but nearly all of these players will be back with their club sides this season so it's not that they want complete rest or retirement, but it's quite a statement to pick time off from the red dress.
Clearly, we need to help them address this and begin to resolve it. Yes, year one of a new cycle is a building year but in netball when seven of your World Cup team take time out, you lose over half your squad. It's huge and unlike some other sports, very noticeable.
I think it's becoming difficult for the players. If you look at some of England's key players that are taking time out, some of them have been in Australia now for years so they have to pop in and pop back out of the England programme. They don't always come back for long periods of time and many have lives, work, education and family that they need to focus on after a jammed packed two years of competition.
It's not just about those that are overseas, what about those players at home facing similar difficulties? I've always been quite vocal about not being a massive fan of the programme, purely because it takes players out of their home environment for long periods of time.
As a former Superleague coach it's really frustrating to not be able to work with your team and secondly it only works for the players that can and want to do it. I still believe there are plenty of our top players missing out because they don't (or can't) do the programme which is based for days in Loughborough. So, the question becomes how do we support the players better?
Maybe danger period is a bit dramatic, but we are at point where the world netball issues are so important and I'd love to see us all getting on the same page. The international part of the game is still so key.
These issues in Jamaica will get resolved, one way or another, but I'll definitely be disappointed if they end up not bringing a competitive squad when they've got such a great opportunity in this series in January. We want the best players being exposed to the competition in January.
And this is the same for England, I'd like to think we are all helping the players to not have to make such difficult decisions.
I think that we've got to look at easier ways and keep listening to past and current players. Sharni Layton is a great example, talking about her mental health issues and what she went through in netball and the reasons her career ended in our sport way before it should have.
I want to know how we make that happen, to make it easier for the players, to support the governing bodies and also I want us all to get an understanding that the game is changing and we don't have to be so scared of that.
If it's getting more professional in the club environment we've got to make sure that we keep doing that at the international level as well - both go hand in hand.
I say we take the threats off the table and start looking at constructive ways for governing bodies, players and clubs to get the very best out of every season and cycle.