This year’s Hunter United squad.A Newcastle club coach has challenged Netball NSW’sreasoning for rejecting the city’s bid for a Premier League team after her squad beat two sides from the elite state competition in trial games this year.
The coach, who did not want herself or her club identified, said her Newcastle Open Championship teamhad beaten two full-strength Premier League clubs in practice games in Sydney in March and April.
Netball NSW denied Hunter United’s bid to join Premier League (see story here) after the state’s high-performance staff decided the region did not have enough good players.
Hunter United have dominated the second-tier Metro League this season with players from several Hunter netball associations, most of whom play in the Newcastle club competition.
Newcastle’s Open Championship is theoretically at least two big steps below NSW Premier League, but the coach said this was not apparent when her side locked horns with Sydney’s best.
“Between Metro League and Premier League it is a big gap. Having said that, our side have done some pre-season and mid-season games against Premier League sides down in Sydneyand we’ve won.One of them’s sitting in the top four.
“If that’s any indication, imagine if the top end of the [Newcastle] competition were playing in there.
“We know that the depth is in Newcastle just based on what we’ve done. That’s just our local Saturday side.”
The coach said the trial games had been played in a training environment, but she said the results had an immediate effect.
“We didn’t have full official umpires or anything like that. But what we did do against those teams in Sydney,no one else wanted to play us after that.
“All the teams pulled up stumps and didn’t want to play us, and we know why. If we expose that we can beat them, that’s not good for them or anyone in that competition. I knew why when people started cancelling.
“We shouldn’t getanywhere near those Premier League teams, and that’s the risk they took in playing us . . .us showing that little old Newcastle, we’re just a club side, and we’ve just beaten a Premier League side.”
Hunter United playing in Metro League this season.
The coach said she had travelled to Sydney to watch Hunter United,who finished 10 points ahead of their nearest rivals in Metro League last week, and was convinced they had the talent to play in the top tier and would be top-four contenders if they could retrieve the local talent that had been forced to play for Sydney clubs.
Four Hunter players are in Premier League squads and six in under-20s teams.
“I think they’d be competitive easily with the bottom three or the bottom four. But that’s not what theywant.
“Adding the top players who are down there would help them compete with that top end of the table.We’ve got the depth here in the Hunter. We always have had.
“That pathway to Sydney, for them to have to travel down there two nights a week and then play a third.
“It’s why some of the girls’ talent in Newcastle never gets seen, because they can’t make that commitment.
“We definitely need a pathway here for the Hunter. And it’s not just for the Hunter. When you head up towards Coffs Harbour or Port Macquarie, they’ve got nowhere either, and we would be the closest point for them.”
Netball NSW said Hunter United could not guarantee the region’s best young players would return from their Sydney clubs, but the Newcastle coach said they would given the right environment.
“They’re Newy girls. Given the option, for the Hunter, I think they would, if the right people were put in place for them.The only reason girls go to Sydney is because there’s no team here.”
Meanwhile, Hunter United’s Metro League division-four side play Inner Western Suburbs in the major semi-final on Monday night from 6.45 in Sydney.
The winner of the top-two game progresses to the grand final and the loser plays in the preliminary final next week.
Hunter finished second to Inner Western Suburbs on the ladder but became the only team to beat them this season when they met a month ago.