ONE of the few Victorian bodies to mount a successful return to competition netball during a COVID-hit 2020, Golden City Netball Association is again proving to be ahead of the game.
The association, which is based at the Bendigo Stadium courts in West Bendigo, has opted to change its uniform guidelines to allow players greater flexibility in choosing the style of their club outfit.
It follows last year's independent State of the Game Review, headed by Diamonds great Liz Ellis, which identified widespread concerns that the lycra uniforms make many prospective and current players feel uncomfortable.
The review found many girls had stopped playing netball because they felt uncomfortable with the revealing uniform, while others had been discouraged from entering the sport for the same reason.
It's a situation the GCNA has long been mindful of and eager to prevent and they have acted swiftly and decisively.
Association president Rachel Thomsen roundly praised the GCNA committee clubs for their proactive effort in being one of the first to initiate a change in dress code.
"We are committed to increasing participation in netball for everyone in 2021 and beyond and we'd already made the decision to have a major by-law change, and in the spirit of inclusivity and diversity, players can now wear shorts in all age groups across our divisions," she said.
"We know it's not for everyone - certain teams will take us up on the offer and some won't - but we do expect with some of the younger players they will feel more comfortable.
"Sometimes, at certain ages, that (lycra) netball dress does not give the girls much confidence.
"The review, in particular, suggested girls aged 12 to 14 would like the option of wearing a T-shirt and shorts or a skirt, as opposed to the (lycra) dress.
"Something else that came up was that the sport shorts were really designed for boys, they're not necessarily designed for girls.
"We think it will be an exciting change and one that will keep players in the game and encourage others, who might be weighing up whether or not to play, to become involved."
After a successful but delayed season due to COVID in 2020, Thomsen said Golden City was looking forward to a semblance of normality this year.
The association will look to broaden its appeal and player-base by offering a mixed competition.
"I think after COVID, a lot of clubs everywhere are struggling for numbers, so we thought we'd offer mixed netball in the 14-and-under division and also in the senior or open divisions," Thomsen said.
"We will have to have a minimum of four teams to run the competition, but it's a start.
"I'm convinced we are moving in the right direction with our competition, the interest this season has been huge.
"We've got some big clubs coming back this season and some new ones."
The GCNA season starts on Saturday, April 24. Registrations are now open and close on Friday, March 26.
Visit the association's website for details.
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