Stadium plan vital to city's VNL hopes

THE proposed redevelopment of Bendigo Stadium could prove crucial to the city's future chance of securing a Victorian Netball League franchise licence.

Local netball identity Melissa Ryan, who helped spearhead Bendigo's unsuccessful VNL bid this year, said it was vital the multi-million-dollar revamp went ahead.

Ryan said despite being the obvious choice as a venue for elite netball matches, the stadium did not presently have an indoor netball court that complied with Netball Victoria regulations.

A pole situated too close to the edge of the main court could be temporarily padded when required, but a permanent solution was needed.

"The stadium redevelopment is vital in terms of Bendigo getting a VNL licence," Ryan said. "We must have a compliant court for VNL matches and above."

The Bendigo consortium narrowly missed out on winning a VNL licence for 2015 following a Netball Victoria review of the competition, beaten at the final hurdle by Ballarat.

But the group has continued to liaise with the state's governing netball body to shore up their position next time a vacancy becomes available and want to be ready at the first opportunity.

"We are pushing for an extra licence to be introduced soon," Ryan said. "We don't feel we should have to wait for someone else to fall over - the competition needs to expand and we don't want to wait."

Victoria's top state netball league is a step in the elite pathway for players in regional academy programs, leading on to the Australian Netball League and ANZ Championships.

Since its inception in 2009, many talented girls from Bendigo and surrounds have had to travel regularly to Melbourne and Ballarat to take part.

Ryan and supporters of the Bendigo VNL bid are determined the opportunity should be made available closer to home.  

"The stadium is really important from a netball perspective if we are to have any chance of offering those extended pathways for local players."

City of Greater Bendigo city futures director Stan Liacos said netball was just one of many community sectors that would benefit if the stadium precinct was expanded, and the proposal "ticks a number of boxes".  

"There are components of the venue that are not compliant with national standards and we need to address these if we are to continue to punch above our weight as a bold regional city," Mr Liacos said.

The draft Bendigo Stadium Master Plan is open for public comment until August 29.

TRAVELLER: Chelsea Sartori has played VNL for Ballarat. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

TRAVELLER: Chelsea Sartori has played VNL for Ballarat. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

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