Imports geared up for new netball competition
Article from: The Courier-Mail
March 27, 2008 11:00pm
ANDREW Symonds will pocket around $268,000 a week playing cricket in India next month, unaware the same amount has become a magical number for Australian netballers. And that's even if they have to cut it up 12 ways and work all season for it.
The $268,000 is the salary cap for the new ANZ netball competition featuring five 12-women squads from Australia, including Queensland Firebirds, and five from New Zealand.
The figure may be small bikkies for Symonds but for netball it is a quantum leap into semi-professionalism and it will allow some players to be paid up to $30,000 per season, though most of the Firebirds have retained outside jobs.
Already it has triggered overseas recruiting, with the Firebirds yesterday unveiling England's Tamsin Greenway and Jamaica's Romelda Aiken who can scarcely believe their good fortune at being around when the sport is spreading its wings.
"It has been a dream of mine to play over here so when I got the chance I jumped at it," said Leicester-raised Greenway. "Netball in England is about five years behind Australia."
The Firebirds will move from their former home base at Chandler to the more upmarket Convention Centre for their seven home games in a season that starts next week and will be telecast by Fox Sports.
"Netball is the biggest female sport in England but the media coverage is not great," Greenway said. "I love it here. I love the heat, the whole way of life. I love having a beach 40 minutes away which you can use. I can get to a beach at home but it is brown water. And there's only about two days a year when it's hot enough to go in."
Aiken, a 195cm 19-year-old, hails from a small town in Jamaica where crack sprinter Asafa Powell is a national icon and one of her heroes.
She claims to have settled in well to Brisbane but still misses the chicken curries cooked the special Jamaican way.
"Netball is a big thing where I come from but it is not professional," Aiken said. "I have never been away from home for a long period but I am enjoying it."
Captain Peta Stephens, who works for Qantas, has retained her job despite the arrival of semi-professionalism, a move she feels has already left a positive mark on the sport.
"It's exciting. It's something we've never experienced as athletes before," Stephens said. "It gives you that extra incentive to train harder because there is more riding on it. We are training harder. I am fitter than I have ever been. It is particularly exciting for the younger girls coming through.
"This is the biggest step – beyond what I thought would happen in my time.
"We don't know where the competition will go but it will be the premier netball competition in the world."
Not a huge netball fan myself, but this competition really seems to be going places. From what I can work out these two import signings are really good young players, and should be great additions to the firebirds team.
Anyone know if any of the other teams have imported some stars?