BENDIGO and central Victoria has every right to feel shunned by Netball Victoria’s decision not to award the region a Victoria Netball League licence.
When the 10 successful licence holders for the 2019-23 seasons were announced on Thursday, Bendigo was again missing.
In a further blow to the development of the game in country regions, rural-based Ballarat Sovereigns were the only franchise to lose their licence, with the one new licence granted to the Casey Demons.
Never mind that four clubs, including Ariels, Boroondara Express and Hawks already operate in close proximity to the league newcomers – while a fourth Peninsula Waves is little more than 10 kilometres away, the VNL has chosen to go down the path of adding to the city mix at the expense of talented and worthy country netballers.
VNL grand final day was in many ways a banner day for the Bendigo and central Victoria regions.
Best on court for City West Falcons in their championship success was their star goal defence Zoe Davies, a product of a strong Bendigo league, which finished as Netball Victoria association champions last season and runners-up in 2018. Her team-mates included Imogen Sexton, also a BFNL player.
Another, Meg Williams captained DC North East Blaze in their under-19 grand final. The star Sandhurst midcourter was one of four BFNL players named in VNL teams of the year, along with Maddy Stewart (championship), Ashley Ryan (division one) and Ruby Barkmeyer (under-19).
Those half dozen represent a mere sprinkling of the BFNL talent to have impacted at VNL level in the past few seasons.
But what sets these girls apart from many of their peers is that each season they are forced to make countless trips up and down the state’s highways (as many as three or four a week) at tremendous personal and financial cost to individuals and their families.
Their pathway to the top has again not been made any easier by this decision and another chance to demonstrate a commitment to our elite country netballers has gone begging.