AUSTRALIA’S top netballers are threatening to boycott all international matches, walk away from their club contracts and create a breakaway league if a dramatic power play from state organisations succeeds at Friday’s board meeting.
The players served Netball Australia with an unprecedented warning that drastic measures would be taken if respected board member Kathryn Harby-Williams was not re-elected to one of three vacant positions at the annual general meeting in Canberra.
Former national captain Harby-Williams’s position is under threat from the state member organisations, led by Queensland and New South Wales.
The member organisations arranged a special general meeting last week which saw board chair Anne-Marie Corboy step down from the top job and then lose her position on the board.
The Australian Netball Players’ Association condemned the loss of Corboy as “an inexcusable lack of judgment that only serves to satisfy self-interest” and warned the game would be thrown in turmoil if Harby-Williams was not re-elected.
The players believe Netball Queensland and Netball New South Wales lead the plot to return more power to their organisations in the face of considerable change in the sport, including the introduction of three new teams for the debut Super Netball season.
The ANPA strongly backed Harby-Williams and said the “highly-capable” board member must be retained.
“It is a non-negotiable position that Kathryn Harby-Williams be re-elected to the board with the overwhelming support of all MOs and delegates,” it said.
“Failure to re-elect Harby-Williams will see the players lose complete confidence in the people entrusted to select the board of NA.
“It would demonstrate that those with the responsibility of electing the board are more interested in selecting well-meaning individuals who contribute little, over people who have the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise to take the sport forward.”
The spat threatens Super Netball and could hit this weekend’s games as players consider immediate industrial action, potentially a strike or in-game protest.
Players are also considering legal options in a proposed move to terminate their contracts with certain clubs.
Their next move will hinge on the board re-elections and a phone conference between the players and the ANPA immediately afterwards.
ANPA board member and former Australian Diamonds vice-captain Bianca Chatfield said the removal of Harby-Williams, a businesswoman in addition to her sporting achievements, would be a significant step backwards for Australian netball.
Chatfield said the recent club expansion had been “highly successful”.
“It is not our preference to strike, of course not, the girls love playing the game and they want to play the game, but we think it (the loss of Harby-Williams) would take the game backwards,” Chatfield told the Herald Sun.
“What the players care about and what they are most passionate about is that our sport keeps moving forward. And we believe that the best way it is going to move forward is to be run by a Netball Australia board that is independent to the clubs.
“We think out of all the candidates that are up for re-election Kathryn Harby-Williams is the best person.
“She has been on the board for the past three years, she has high performance knowledge being the former captain of Australia and she has a lot of expertise in media and broadcast, which is what need to move our sport forward.”
Netball Victoria would not comment on Wednesday night.
Originally published as Strike! The war tearing Super Netball apart