On Sunday, March 1 the Australian Diamonds will face off against the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) All-Stars in a bushfire relief charity match organised by Netball Australia.
The showcase game, taking place at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, is just one of several initiatives organised by Netball Australia in response to the devastating impact the current bushfires are having on communities and wildlife throughout Australia.
The Diamonds, who recently did not compete in the inaugural Vitality Nations Cup, will come together outside of official scheduled duties in order to play. After the line-ups were unveiled earlier this week what immediately struck me was the overwhelmingly positive reaction from fans to the event.
It is easy to see why.
With the number one ranked team in the world on one side versus a team featuring the best the rest of the world has to offer on the other, what had previously only been imaginable in a fantasy context is set to become a reality. Indeed, just the very thought of England's Geva Mentor with South Africa's Karla Pretorius at her side in the defending circle is enough to whet any netball fan's appetite.
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And here's the point I would like to make. That there is an appetite. The obvious and simple question is: "who wouldn't want to see the Australian Diamonds take on a team featuring the world's best?"
But it goes beyond that. The idea of the game inspired no doubt by Soccer Aid's friendly-style football match between England and the Soccer Aid World XI (formerly Rest of the World), is an example of the kind of entertainment innovation that netball and crucially, netball supporters, have been crying out for.
We saw glimpses of that same desire from fans to watch something different when Vitality Netball Superleague side Wasps went to Netball New Zealand's preseason tournament late last year; fans and clubs alike afterwards started imagining a netball 'Champions League' style tournament.
Since netball is not a sport following a precedent set by a male counter-part there seems to be no reason why the netball calendar can't divert from a traditional sporting format and become something that has within it more creative set-ups such as an 'All-Stars' fixture.
As long as the schedule never becomes overloaded for players the demand from a spectator perspective certainly seems to be in place.
Logistically and financially, of course, there will always be constraints but the level of response from fans around the world should certainly not go unnoticed by media and netball executives alike when looking ahead to the future.
These are the kind of occasions netball needs in order to keep propelling itself further forwards; to keep drawing more attention and keep the crowds coming back for more.
Below are the teams announced for the charity fixture.
Australian Diamonds team:
- Caitlin Bassett (captain)
- Liz Watson
- Kiera Austin
- Ash Brazill
- Courtney Bruce
- Paige Hadley
- Sarah Klau
- Tegan Philip
- Jamie-Lee Price
- Laura Scherian
- Caitlin Thwaites
- Gretel Tippett
- Maddy Turner
- Jo Weston
Suncorp Super Netball All-Stars team:
- Jhaniele Folwer
- Jo Harten
- Natalie Haythornthwaite
- Helen Housby
- Laura Langman
- Emily Mannix
- Kristiana Manu'a
- Geva Mentor
- Kate Moloney
- Chelsea Pitman
- Karla Pretorius
- Gabi Simpson
- Shamera Sterling
- Sam Wallace
The Diamonds will be coached by Lisa Alexander and the SSN All-Stars team will be co-coached by Briony Akle (NSW Swifts) and Julie Fitzgerald (GIANTS Netball).News Now - Sport News