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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

[Sport] Girls Play with Big Balls

I wasn’t going to go with that title (because it fully undermines my respect for netball) but then I thought: imagine all the hits I’ll get.

Netball New Zealand has decided to have a second round in the National Bank Cup (NBC). Following a meeting of franchises yesterday, NNZ chairman Don Mackinnon said the NBC would be extended to a two-round competition within the next two seasons (2006 or 2007).

The worry about this is the demise of the Netball NPC (I shall call this the NNPC to avoid confusion with the rugby version). The Australian version of the NBC is run in two rounds and has ended up killing their NNPC. This is akin to SANZAR agreeing to extend the Super 12 and throttling the life out of the NPC. But from the looks of things Netball NZ has things under control. I am so not surprised.

It is a good idea to extend the NBC. Currently there are eight teams; they play each other once in a seven round tournament. This means if you have a new squad that you want to “blood” by the time they start to really gel their season is over for another year. The system also allows teams to play away and at home.

More games mean more money. More home games, more TV coverage are good for the team and (hopefully) more money for the players. Know I know, “mo money, mo problems” especially for smaller teams. We don’t want this to escalate to the point where only three teams have any money and can buy all the players. But let’s be frank, nearly all of these players have day jobs. How many professional rugby players do you know of who are teachers during the week?

The best thing about the NBC at the moment is free-to-air games. I know I always have to go back to the NFL (it is the best run sports league in the world) but bear with me. In the NFL every local TV affiliate has to show one free-to-air game (i.e. basically you are able to watch a live football game even if you don’t have pay TV). Currently in the NBC there are two games a week broadcast on TVNZ, this does wonders for the fan base. For example: I don’t have Sky, I can’t stand the idiots on TV3 (except Nathan and Oscar) and so don’t watch much S12 rugby and my interest in the Super 12 lags.

Still, given the bugbear I have with most of the world’s sports tournaments, how can I like a league where one team has won the last six competitions (the Southern Sting)? Simple, I just don’t like the Sting. I cheer for the Magic because they play in Tauranga (believe it or not the BOP has been a crucial part of New Zealand Netball for many years). But even so, isn’t it nice that the dominant team is Southland!? Southland, whose rugby team is apparently “under consideration” for the expanded NPC and not “guaranteed”.

Lastly, Netball has no bonus points. Good old netball: more exciting than basketball, more sensible (and occasionally more violent) than rugby and (is has to be said) filled with pretty girls. What a great sport.

Ps. With regard to Mike's comment on yesterday’s post:
Does the bonus point system encourage losing? Are teams more likely to kick a penalty to get close rather than try to score a try for the win?

Here’s the situation:
One minute left on the referee’s watch. Your team trails by seven points. You receive a penalty, 10 metres out, right in front of the opposition goal posts. Under the bonus point system you will receive one point for being close and no points for being seven points down. You (the captain) decide to play it safe kick the goal and take your one point (a draw would net you two points but one is close enough). Without the bonus point system you have no choice but to go for the try (two points for the draw is better than none) and a possibly thrilling finale.

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