BENDIGO has reignited its push for a Victorian Netball League licence under the banner of the North Central Strikers to provide a development pathway for the region.
Four years after narrowly missing out on a franchise licence, a consortium has again submitted an application to the Netball Victoria and expects to know early next month if it has been successful or not in gaining entry for 2019.
The group has formed a partnership with the Bendigo Stadium where the Strikers would be based, City of Greater Bendigo and La Trobe University.
Working party spokesperson Melissa Ryan said the club would support a catchment through the northern corridor from Gisborne to Echuca and as far as Mildura.
“That pathway still doesn’t exist and it’s a massive hurdle for our regional players to get down to Melbourne to continue to play,” Ryan said.
“Year after year it’s getting harder with financial restraints and the time factor around work and home life balance.
“A big really big part of this submission compared to the last one is around player retention… we are losing players to other codes because that pathway doesn’t exist.
“With AFLW now becoming quite popular there is that attraction there that if the netball pathway isn’t obtainable in the area players are going to look elsewhere and as a sport we need to be doing just as much as any other code to keep our participation numbers strong and provide those opportunities.”
A big really big part of this submission compared to the last one is around player retention… we are losing players to other codes because that pathway doesn’t exist.Melissa Ryan
The Strikers’ submission has the strong backing of Bendigo’s Australian Diamonds star Caitlin Thwaites.
“My parents had to sacrifice so very much for me. If they hadn’t been able to drive me here, there and everywhere to play, I may not have made it to this level,” Thwaites said.
“Heading down to the big smoke exposes you to just how much harder you need to work to be successful. Being surrounded by elite players and the club structure Strikers would offer will motivate girls to push themselves a little more than they might otherwise.”
The Strikers’ submission covers the club’s proposed structure, elite training program, athlete welfare and community support.
Being surrounded by elite players and the club structure Strikers would offer will motivate girlsCaitlin Thwaites
VNL games are played mostly midweek, with clubs comprised of three teams – under-19s, division one and championship.
“We are here to complement existing clubs and associations because VNL matches are predominantly midweek and do not clash with weekend fixtures. Our partners share our vision of providing a genuine career path for local athletes,” Ryan said.
North Central region VNL players include Kangaroo Flat’s Chelsea Sartori and Ruby Barkmeyer, Sandhurst’s Meg Williams and Heather Oliver and Eaglehawk’s Ash and Abbey Ryan, Dayna McGough and Zoe Davies.
Bendigo Stadium chief executive officer Nathan O’Neill said the redeveloped stadium would provide a “complete package to host VNL games”.
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