Expansion plans not on the horizon

NETBALL'S trans-Tasman competition will resist rushing expansion or full professionalism for players despite a boom season which will culminate in a sell-out grand final on Sunday.

The ANZ Championship is set to finish its second year with a 9000-plus crowd for the Melbourne Vixens-Adelaide Thunderbirds final in Melbourne.

It follows record attendances and television audiences for the 10-team competition - which features five Australian teams and five from New Zealand.

Despite other Australian sports tripping over each other to increase the amount of teams, ANZ Championship general manager Anthony Everard said the league was not considering short to medium-term expansion.

And the trans-Tasman competition is also taking a softly-softly approach towards fulltime professional players, saying it wants to bed down its recent move from amateurism to semi-professionalism first.

“We don't have expansion on our list of priorities at the moment given we're only in year two - we're in a process of consolidation at the moment,” Everard said.

“In the short to medium-term, it's a case of bedding down what we have at the moment.

“We're still a semi-professional league. We've taken a step forward to paying the athletes reasonable amounts of money.”

Everard said full professionalism was likely to come once the competition tapped further into mainstream Australia and New Zealand and increased the selling power of leading netballers like Melbourne's Sharelle McMahon and Adelaide's Natalie Von Bertouch.

But that was likely to be several years away.

“One of the best assets we have are the athletes themselves. They are role models, their performance on the court is phenomenal.

“We think to a large degree the athletes are still a bit undersold.

“We're really happy with the growth in two years, but we're committed to maintaining that growth into the future.”

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