The Super Netball league has zero players contracted for the 2024 season, with every player’s agreement set to expire at the end of the 2023 season.
This comes as a result of there being no valid Collective Player’s Agreement (CPA) from Netball Australia beyond September 2023.
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Each player in the Super Netball competition and the Australian Diamonds have no clarity on their future beyond the current season which ends on July 8, which includes those named in July’s World Cup squad.
Kathryn Deiulio, general manager of talent marketing at TLA sports management, says the situation is detrimental to the athlete’s mental health.
“Imagine not knowing if you’ll have a job in two months. If you might have to move interstate, live apart from your partner, or be told you should retire,” Deiulio the Down Low.
“Imagine the stress and anxiety of that uncertainty hanging over you. Now imagine trying to play elite sport – represent your country even – with that going on in the background.
“As we sit here right now, there is no 2024 Super Netball season because there isn’t a signed CPA. That means the 80 contracted players have no idea what they’re doing at the end of the season, which for those who don’t make the finals, will be mid-June.
“That goes for the players who’ll represent Australia at the World Cup too.”
A CPA is a guideline for contract negotiations which the clubs use, so the eight teams are at the mercy of Netball Australia.
In March, Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan admitted the sport was still trying to recover from a debt of over $4 million, staring down a financial hole following Gina Rinehart’s decision to pull $15 million of sponsorship dollars last year.
“4.2 million is the debt that we have and need to repay,” Ryan said at the Super Netball launch earlier this year.
At that time, the union stated Netball Australia does not intend to raise Super Netball player wages in 2024 due to the debt they face.
Players were given a pay rise of up to 22 per cent last year following a lucrative broadcast deal until 2026, with the promise netballers would remain the highest-paid female athletes in any domestic league – but female cricketers have already taken over.
“There’s no more money for the players through to 2026, which aligns with the broadcast deal… We are not aligned with that approach and will be working with Netball Australia … we have requested financial information, and we hope to come to the table to discuss that,” Australian Netball Players’ Association chief executive Kathryn Harby-Williams said at that time.
The ongoing negotiations mean players, clubs, and their families are in limbo.
“In a normal year with a CPA in place, there is an initial window during the home and away season when clubs can talk to their players, renegotiate and make offers, while other clubs can’t approach them. And then after the grand final, contract chats across the whole league can begin in earnest in what we call the signing period,” Harby-Williams said.
“But this year that is all on pause, and it’s certainly causing a level of stress.
“This is players’ futures we’re talking about. It’s pretty hard to plan your life when you don’t know what it’s going to look like in a few months.
“Those representing Australia at the Netball World Cup in South Africa are facing the potential reality of playing in a Super Netball grand final and then flying to South Africa soon after without knowing what 2024 holds, which is quite extraordinary.
“Those players are going to put their bodies on the line for the country, try to win the World Cup under those circumstances.”
“And even though everyone is in the same boat, not every player deals with it the same. It’s obviously different if you’re a top player who knows you’ll get another deal, compared to an up-and-coming or fringe player or someone who is maybe out of form or heading towards retirement.
“We talk about the importance of mental health … this is something that’s putting undue stress on players, even though they’re so professional, so grateful for how much the sport has grown in recent years … so they don’t complain,” she said.
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