A well-timed baby boom has meant no Super netballers are relocating with children interstate ahead of the season opener on Saturday.
The long-awaited Super netball season will kick off in Brisbane on Saturday with the Queensland Firebirds taking on Sunshine Coast Lightning in game one, followed by the Giants and West Coast Fever clash in Sydney.
After two rounds the entire competition will shift to Queensland for the following four rounds, with the remainder of the draw still to be announced.
While there are mothers in the New Zealand domestic competition, including Test captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio, there aren’t any currently in the Australian league apart from Collingwood’s Ash Brazill, who is out for the season through injury.
Current or former Test stars Natalie Medhurst, Kim Ravaillion and April Brandley have all had babies in the last six months and aren’t ready to resume playing, while former skipper Laura Geitz is pregnant with her third child as is Renee Ingles, with the pair now retired.
Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett), the current Australian netballer of the year, also announced her pregnancy this month.
Former Australian captain and now Melbourne Vixens assistant coach Sharelle McMahon is the only high-profile coach who elected not to shift to Queensland for the start of competition due to her two young children.
Players Association boss Kath Harby-Williams said it was a difficult decision with players, coaches and support staff, particularly those from Victoria, set to be away for up to 10 weeks.
Under the current CBA Netball Australia provides support for an infant carer to attend matches if a player has a child under 12 months old, as well as two years maternity leave income cover.
“All clubs could take 12 players plus four staff members so I know when it comes to physios and assistant coaches, those people often have other jobs and families,” Harby-Williams said.
“There were discussions about a centralised physio or medical staff if teams weren’t able to take their own.”
Before COVID-19 bit into their earnings through pay-cuts, the average netball salary sat around $75,000 while the top players could earn above $150,000.
Harby-Williams said that no players she knew of had to abandon full-time careers to move interstate to play.
“Not full-time, we’re sort of past that now,” she said.
“Quite a few have part-time or casual jobs and clearly they will need to sacrifice those but they’re discussions they would have been having with their employers when this was flagged a little while back.
“Players have always been aware that there was a chance that things could happen quickly.”
Harby-Williams said players had embraced the changes, which includes midweek games, for the good of the competition.
“It’s going as well as it can in an environment like this but ultimately it was very clear that the players wanted the competition to go ahead and they would try and do whatever it took to get to that point.”