I’m sure the many netball lovers in the country are thrilled with the launch of the Varsity Netball tournament. For years the sport has been sidelined and we were only seeing drips and drabs of the sport on many courts around the country.
With the kind of sponsors the tournament has as well as the television coverage that the sport will be getting, I think many netball players that had quit the sport will look for their sneakers again and head back to the courts.
For years players have tried to balance playing netball and their day-to-day work, and that has affected the progress of the senior national team, the Proteas. Players are often made to choose going on tour with the team or staying in the jobs they do.
For instance Proteas’ vice captain Zanele Mdodana who is the sports organiser at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, had to miss the African Championships in Malawi in June due to work commitments. She missed out on the gold medal the team won and the R15 000 reward each player received from the minister of sport Fikile Mbalula.
Coach Elise Kotze always complains about missing her key players for international tournaments. The fact that players are not receiving a salary puts them in a tight corner and they end up choosing where their bread is buttered and the national team suffers.
Hopefully this initiative will help develop a huge pool of players that the national selectors can choose from to strengthen the squad. If we can get a professional league running, who knows maybe we could lure back players like former Proteas captain Amanda Mynhardt who is currently playing in New Zealand due to lack of competitive netball in South Africa.
I remember a recent conversation with Protea Simphiwe Mdaka on how a professional netball league would change the state of South African netball. She said we could even go up the world rankings if players solely concentrated in netball without having their attentions divided.
With the first round of matches held in Tshwane, I was lucky to be one of the growing numbers of spectators at the Tuks Rembrandt sports hall at the University of Pretoria to experience the passion and commitment by the players from different varsities.
Tuks, Tshwane University of Technology, North West University and the University of the Free State have the most zealous netball players I have seen in a very long time. This tournament will definitely separate young girls and netball stars.
Most of the coaches and players I spoke to welcomed this tournament with warm hearts. The coaches are happy that their players will get regular game time which keeps them fit and sharper when on the court.
This is so true as it was evident on the TUT team who started the tournament on a low with an opening score of 12 goals and were on 26 goals in their third match from the first weekend.
They didn’t hang their heads in shame but continued to work hard, bravo! Now that is definitely growth. Now imagine the possibilities when the tournament grows.
I am looking forward to seeing it thrive. With just only 12 matches played there are 1152 goals scored, amazing! I hope this tournament will encourage girls that are playing the sport in junior level to stay on in their teams and work hard to be one of the Varsity Netball players in the future.
By Busisiwe Mokwena – Daily Sun/Sunday Sun sports reporter