Silver Ferns' woes Netball NZ's fault, should've conceded to revamped trans-Tasman League - Kath Harby-Williams

The Silver Ferns placed fourth at the Commonwealth Games.
The Silver Ferns placed fourth at the Commonwealth Games. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand refusing to concede a reduction in franchises for a revamped trans-Tasman Netball competition was the catalyst for the Silver Fens' collapse as an international powerhouse.

That's the view of former Australian Diamonds captain Kathryn Harby-Williams.

The Ferns left the Gold Coast without a Commonwealth Games medal, losing to Jamaica in the bronze medal match - following losses to Australia, England and Malawi.

Harby-Williams has questioned the decision makers at Netball New Zealand for going it alone and establishing a domestic ANZ Championship.

The 48-year-old was on the board of Netball Australia when the trans-Tasman competition was scrapped two-years ago, but has told RadioLIVE that banishing the New Zealand franchises from the tournament was never part of the plan.

The narrative at the time from Netball New Zealand was that Australia flexed its commercial muscles and forced New Zealand's hand by only offering up two franchise spots in the Super Netball league.

Harby-Williams said that's misleading.

"There are mixed messages there," Harby-Williams told Brendan Telfer on Saturday Sport.

"Australia didn't want it to end either.

"Australia wanted New Zealand teams, we just didn't think it was still feasible to have five teams.

"We requested that they have three," Harby-Williams said.

"Yep, there would have been heartache in selecting those three teams, but had they been successful everyone forgets about the pain that was caused going through that transition.

"We also proposed a review of those terms should the New Zealand teams prove a success.

"We need to be clear here, there were decisions made at Netball New Zealand that it would be five teams or no teams - and at that point we opted to go at it alone as it was just not going to work for the success of the competition."

Kath Harby-Williams (right) with Sky Sport commentator Rikki Swannell.
Kath Harby-Williams (right) with Sky Sport commentator Rikki Swannell. Photo credit: Photosport

Harby-Williams has fairly labelled the Australian competition as the premier global netball league.

Super Netball attracts the best players in the world - aside from eligible Silver Ferns - including the entire starting lineup of Commonwealth champions England.

Laura Langman played under fellow Kiwi Noeline Taurua at the Gold Coast Lightning, with the duo achieving a championship together in the inaugural competition.

Langman's choice to play in Australia left her on the outer with the Silver Ferns, as Netball New Zealand adopted a policy that to be eligible for national honours you must play in the local domestic competition.

Laura Langman playing for the NSW Swifts in 2016.
Laura Langman playing for the NSW Swifts in 2016. Photo credit: Photosport

Harby-Williams said that rule must change, as Netball New Zealand heads into a review of their disastrous Gold Coast campaign.

"If you want the Silver Ferns to be a successful national team then you have to have those players playing against the best international players in the world," Harby-Williams said.

"That is the only way they are going to keep pace with the best teams in the world.

"I truly believe New Zealand needs to find a way that they allow their players to play in the best league in the world, and then work out a way those players can still be on show in their national system.

"You look at the key players in the English side and they all play in our domestic league.

"Every elite athlete wants to play in the best competition in the world and currently for netball that is here in Australia.

"We opened the doors. We allowed the teams to have as many imports as they wanted - and as a result England and Jamaica are reaping the benefits."

Harby-Williams was also critical of the handling of Langman's desire to play abroad.

"They were clearly missing players with leadership, experience and X-factor. Laura has all three of those," Harby-Williams said.

"To leave her out, considering the amount of service she gave New Zealand Netball, that they couldn't make a rule to allow her to play astonished me. 

"Sometimes players need change to freshen up. I have no doubt that the move to Australia helped her show the type of form she showed last year."

Netball New Zealand has disputed Harby-Williams' claim that they were offered three teams in the revamped league.

CEO Jennie Wyllie told RadioLIVE that only two teams were ever on the table.

"What I am told is that it wasn't a viable proposition to stay in the trans-Tasman league as it was presented," Wyllie said.

Netball NZ CEO Jennie Wyllie.
Netball NZ CEO Jennie Wyllie. Photo credit: Photosport

"We would have been going further backwards. We would have been going further backwards in the development of our players. The commercial reality of that league was supported by Sky TV out of New Zealand.

"So the value of having New Zealand teams participating is crucial (to) the commercial viability of a league like that."

The review into the Silver Ferns' fourth place finish at the Commonwealth Games is due to commence in two weeks.


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