Netball players and fans across Australia have come out in force to slam the decision to sell hosting rights for the Super Netball grand final, in a move that has dudded the ladder-leading Melbourne Vixens.
Netball Australia (NA) CEO Kelly Ryan has defended the controversial move, saying it will help the organisation turn around its dire financial position.
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The Melbourne Vixens (10-2) currently sit on top of the ladder and would normally have won hosting rights for the grand final if they were victorious in their major semi-final.
However, NA's decision to sell the grand final to the WA government means potential hosting rights have been taken away from the Vixens.
It means Perth's RAC Arena will hold this season's decider on July 3 in a move that has caused outrage among players and fans, with only two weeks of the regular season remaining.
If the Vixens and the second-placed West Coast Fever remain in their positions on the ladder, the Melbourne side will host their rivals in the major semi-final, with the winner progressing straight through to the grand final.
Even if the Fever lose the major semi-final, they will now get to host the decider if they make it through the preliminary final.
Netball Australia said on Thursday the grand final will be taken to a new location every season, rather than it being handed to the team that earned hosting rights.
Ryan laid out Netball Australia's dire financial position when defending the decision to rotate the grand final in future years.
"Today we released our financial results for 2021; a $4.4 million dollar loss," The NA CEO said.
"We have four million dollars in loans now owing to financial institutions."
Ryan said she felt for the Vixens, but it was a decision that had to be made.
"I do appreciate the sensitivities around this decision for them and we want to work with them so they understand the harsh realities about why these decisions have been made," she added.
Netball Australia move leaves players and fans fuming
The Australian Netball Players' Association have called for a change of culture at Netball Australia in the wake of the decision.
"The players are devastated - both by the decision, and the way it has been handled," the ANPA said in a statement.
“To move the goalposts after Round 12, when every team has ‘busted their guts’ for the chance to host a Grand Final in front of family, friends, members and fans after two years of Covid compromises, without even asking a single player what they thought, is just shattering...
"Netball Australia tells us that we are the "game's most important asset" and a "priority" partner. And yet they treat us as the lowest priority.
"Either the behaviours must change, or the people must change."
Fans have also been quick to lash out at the Fever's advantage this year, less than 18 months after the club was found guilty of cheating the salary cap in 2018 and 2019.
What a disgrace Netball Australia!! As a mad Vixens supporter this is the biggest kick in the teeth.
— Jay Mac (@JayMac60997452) June 2, 2022
Netball Australia is a disgrace and giving a GF to a state who’s team rorted the salary cap. You’ll start losing supporters.
— stephen (@stephen11053747) June 2, 2022
Absolutely flabbergasted! @MelbourneVixens did it for VIC and won it in 2020 for us and our chance to hopefully 🤞 have a home GF is potentially taken away from us. What a slap in the face to all the paying members and the teams. Disgraceful NA 🤬
— Ally Burt (@AllyBurt) June 1, 2022
What an absolutely disgraceful decision.,. How dare u take away the advantage of finishing the top of the table and basically handle the win to the #westcoastfever
— Dj 🏳️🌈 (@djmelbau) June 2, 2022
Said it before and will say it again - how did the former CEO get to leave our country's premiere women's sport in such a financial shambles prior to COVID and just parachute into the CEO role at Cycling Australia?
Don't these boards do due diligence? It's disgraceful.
— Brad Pidgeon (he/him) (@pidgeo) June 2, 2022
Absolutely disgraceful. Shows no respect to players and fans, especially changing so late in season. Hosting the GF is earned and should not be sold off to the highest bidder. Another questionable decision by @NetballAust .
— Allison McIntyre (@AlllisonM) June 1, 2022
It's believed Netball Australia will receive about $300,000 from the deal, which was announced with just two rounds remaining in the regular season.
As part of the deal struck with the WA State Government, the Australian Diamonds will use WA as their base for their Commonwealth Games training camp in July.
For the first time in the league's history there will be prize money for the teams who make the grand final.
The winner will be awarded $100,000 with the runner-up taking home $25,000.
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