Aussie netball legend Liz Ellis has taken a blowtorch to the sport's national governing body over the controversial awards night that her name is intrinsically tied to. Courtney Bruce capped off a stunning year after winning the 2023 Liz Ellis Diamond award at an event overshadowed by a widespread player boycott of Netball Australia's night of nights.
Ellis was not even present at the event to hand over the award named in her honour after revealing that Netball Australia's invite was only sent to her on the RSVP deadline date. In a lengthy social media post, Ellis said she was "disappointed" not to have been able to attend the awards night, even if Netball Australia (NA) had told her to ignore the RSVP date.
"I am incredibly disappointed that I was not able to be there in person to present the award to Courtney," Ellis wrote on Instagram. "For the avoidance of doubt, I want to put on the record that I was sent an invitation to the event on 3 November - which was the deadline for RSVPs.
"I was assured that I could ignore the RSVP deadline. However, given that I had been given no prior notice of the date on which the award named after me was to be handed out, I had already committed to another event that night."
The netball great said NA chief executive officer Kelly Ryan personally "apologised for the oversight" but said her disappointment turned to anger when she found out that current Diamonds players were forced to attend the controversial event due to contractual obligations. Many other players opted to snub the awards night due to the ongoing dispute between the players association and Netball Australia over the collective bargaining agreement.
Liz Ellis angry players were forced to attend awards
“My disappointment and embarrassment at not being able to attend turned into anger when I was made aware that current Diamonds players and their advisers were threatened with possible legal action if they did not attend the dinner,” Ellis wrote. “As a former Diamonds captain, I cannot believe that the governing body of the sport I love would treat its Diamonds athletes, who are brilliant role models and ambassadors for netball with such callous disregard.
“These are women who have not been paid in eight weeks. Who are fighting for fair pay and conditions not only for themselves but for the players who come after them. Who consider themselves as custodians of the game.
"And who I suspect would love nothing more than to attend an event where their world-beating heroics of the past twelve months were to be celebrated. Yet who felt so strongly about what they were fighting for, that they were prepared to forgo those celebrations.”
The situation is another bad look for Netball Australia, which has been been plunged into turmoil this year amid a widely publicised financial crisis gripping the sport. Ellis went on to say that netball has made headlines “for the wrong reasons — another crisis entirely of the sport’s own making."
She added: "This has happened so often in recent times the question must be asked whether Netball Australia is capable of providing the leadership the sport so desperately needs. This question must be asked not just by players, or ex-players like me, but by the whole system. And it is a question which needs an immediate answer.”
Courtney Bruce claims top gong again
West Coast and Diamonds star Bruce took out the top award for her stellar domestic and international seasons with the Fever and Australia. The 29-year-old also received the top gong in 2021 and described her second victory as "special", considering the depth of talent across the sport in Australia.
"It is absolutely crazy to win", Bruce said. "Not many people see the hard work that we put in behind the scenes to get to perform every day. "This award is so special considering the bunch of athletes currently playing in Australia. I am so grateful to spend the time I do with my teams and to treasure the memories on and off the court."
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