Australian Netball Championships bring top players to Traralgon
The nation’s top netball players have descended on the Traralgon Indoor Sports Stadium for the inaugural Australian Netball Championships.
The competition aims to discover emerging talent from 10 state and territory teams playing in the Super Netball League.
“From this week’s competition we will select our Australia Under-21 team who will go to camp later in the year,” said Netball Australia’s Kristen Barnes.
The typical path for an aspiring school-age netballer is to play for a local club, then be selected for a regional or representative team in their county, and hopefully achieve an under-17 or under-19 position on a state team.
“Ultimately, getting selected for the Australian Diamonds was the pinnacle of a professional netball career,” said Barnes.
Regarding what makes a promising netballer in 2022, Barnes said it varies from position to position.
“What we’re looking for in the Australian style of play is tight player-vs-player defence, repeated effort, technical ball ability, ability to feed the circle and get the ball down,” she said.
Goalscoring, attacking, defending and goalkeeping positions require an optimal height of 185 centimeters or more.
“We’re looking for shooters who can shoot through the circle and have really good connections, who are athletic, fit, capable of fighting and who end up getting the ball through the ring.”
The championships not only see up-and-coming players, Barnes said, but gave umpires, coaches, officials and technical experts the opportunity to advance their career goals.
Netball’s expanding world
Netball is the most popular women’s sport in Australia and the nation is the global center of the game, a cloak cemented by the Diamonds’ recent Commonwealth Games gold medal win.
“Historically, Australia and New Zealand were the two big rivals around the world and now with the introduction of Super Netball, more players are coming through and leagues are developing around the world,” said Barnes.
“We have athletes coming and playing from all over the world, be it England, South Africa or Jamaica.”
It was a coming-of-age decade for women’s participation in sport in Australia, with AFL clubs Collingwood and Greater Western Sydney expanding to include a women’s football league and netball team.
Continued growth in netball is predicted in the coming years to add to the thriving men’s and mixed competitions.
Traralgon’s outsized sporting ambitions
With the success of the Traralgon Tennis International Junior Tennis Tournament, Latrobe City has built a reputation for hosting major sporting events.
Much of the county’s investment in new, state-of-the-art, multipurpose sports and cultural infrastructure came after the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire as part of a regional development strategy.
Investments in Gippsland’s flagship facilities such as the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Center and the Gippsland Performing Arts Center have been made in response to the region’s growing population and in the hope of generating economic, recreational and social activity in the region.
For the 2026 Commonwealth Games, Latrobe City Stadium in Morwell will be upgraded for Rugby 7s competition before becoming a football stadium.
Latrobe City Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said the city has hosted everything from AFL football and cricket to bocce ball, badminton and basketball in recent years, with visiting legendary U.S. basketball entertainers the Harlem Globe Trotters was a new peak.
“We’ve known for many years that we have a great commercial opportunity to bring visitors to Latrobe, but also to attract people to the wider Gippsland,” she said.
“It’s about hospitality, the accommodation, people going out to restaurants, buying things from local businesses, but also participating in other local attractions in the area. All of this contributes to the economic benefit.”
Ms Callaghan also points to the enduring social benefits that come from large-scale “morale-boosting” events for pandemic-weary locals.
She said events not only provided a catalyst for connecting with the community and re-engaging with volunteers, but also created inspiring experiences for local school children.
At the Australian Netball Championships, visiting and local clubs have facilitated on-site netball clinics so children can take part in an activity before watching a game.
“When you get people involved in these kinds of activities, they can also see avenues of participation that connect them to the sports clubs that are here,” Ms Callaghan said.