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Furious netball superstars threaten rebel league, strike, Diamonds boycott

Read the players’ letter here

‘s best netballers are threatening strike action this weekend, a Super Netball breakaway to form a rebel competition and a boycott of Diamonds games for the rest of the year unless the state associations re-elect threatened board member Kathryn Harby-Williams at Friday’s Netball annual general meeting.

As the political divisions within the sport became public following the dumping of highly credentialed former board chair Anne-Marie Corboy at a special general meeting called by the member organisations last week, the n Netball Players’ Association strongly condemned the treatment of Corboy as “an inexcusable lack of judgment that only serves to satisfy self-interest”.

Following a 90-minute telephone hook-up on Tuesday involving multiple representatives from all eight Super Netball Clubs, the ANPA then forwarded a scathing letter to Netball chair Paolina Hunt to be distributed to all member associations and delegates before the AGM in Canberra. Part of the letter signed today by the biggest names in the sport

Harby-Williams, a former n captain, is – with Cheryl McCormack – one of two current directors seeking re-election, and among five candidates for three vacancies, including Corboy’s. It is believed that Netball Queensland and Netball NSW are two of the state bodies refusing to vote for the respected and experienced Harby-Williams as part of a power play aimed at returning more clout to the disgruntled member organisations.

The ANPA letter said “… it is a non-negotiable position that Kathryn Harby-Williams be re-elected to the board with the overwhelming support of all MOs and delegates,” describing the 47-year-old as clearly the best qualified of a group completed by former indigenous star Marcia Ella-Duncan, Susan Comerford and Jan Magaccis.

“Failure to re-elect Harby-Williams will see the players lose complete confidence in the people entrusted to select the board of NA,” the ANPA letter continues. “It would demonstrate that those with the responsibility of electing the board are more interested in selecting well-meaning individuals who contribute little, over people who have the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise to take the sport forward.”

The letter said that failure to endorse Harby-Williams would result in players meeting to discuss the future of Super Netball, including round nine this weekend, a protest that “may involve industrial action”. It is also believed that some netballers are pushing to boycott all matches against the Netball Queensland-operated club, the Firebirds.

“Additionally, no player will be available to represent the n Diamonds for the remainder of the year, until the n Sports Commission expresses their confidence and satisfaction that the board is truly independent and capable of acting in the best interests of the sport and not representative groups that have both a real and perceived conflict of interest.

“The players have instructed their representative body, ANPA, that if Harby-Williams is not reappointed to explore all options to create a rebel league that has no involvement of MOs. If MOs and the delegates do not vote to support the re-election of Harby-Williams then ANPA will actively support and promote election campaigns of current and past members to immediately challenge the boards of MOs.

“MOs that have been actively running a campaign against Harby-Williams will find that ANPA will actively encourage athletes not to re-sign with that team; and if asked will engage legal advice so as they can terminate multi-year contracts.

“Finally, the players are dismayed that the attack on the independence of the NA board is again being led by MOs that during recent collective agreement negotiations aggressively and purposely sought to suggest that if pregnancy rights and provisions were provided into the agreement then the athletes would see it as an opportunity to have a ‘holiday/break’ at the expense of those MOs.”

The letter is signed by two players from each club, including Magpies Madi Robinson and Sharni Layton and Vixens Kate Moloney and Tegan Philip, as well as ANPA directors Bianca Chatfield and Jean-Paul Blandthorn. The n Sports Commission, which provides annual funding of $3 million, has advised Netball in writing of its governance obligations and expectations of directorial independence.

Chatfield emphasised that these were not idle threats, and that the players were appalled that the eastern seaboard expansion to include teams owned by Collingwood (Magpies Netball) and the Melbourne Storm (Sunshine Coast Lightning) and one owned by Netball NSW but aligned to GWS Giants in the revamped national league had not been embraced by the state associations attempting to control the NA board.

“It does come down to the change in the netball landscape, especially for all the teams on the eastern side of . I think the girls can fight it all out on court, but off the court I don’t know why the teams can’t work together,” said Chatfield, a former Diamonds vice-captain.

“There just seems to be this real bitterness around the member organisations not having a say on the teams coming into their homeland, now that they have to share sponsorship and they have to fight for members, fight for players.

“In a positive mindset you go ‘great, let’s move this momentum forward together and work together to create something even bigger for our sport’. Instead we’re getting caught up on all the little things, and the threats, rather than seeing what the opportunities are.

“I think we can learn so much from other professional sports, and that’s why it’s great that you’ve got now a Collingwood Football Club involved, a Melbourne Storm involved. They’re clubs that have been successful and we need to learn from them which we potentially won’t have that opportunity if it goes back to the member organisations having control.”

The Diamonds, the reigning World Cup and Commonwealth Games champions, are due to play a series of Test matches later this year as well as the annual Fast5 World Series in Melbourne in November.

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