Before any Roses fans get upset with me, as a hard-core netball fan who does actually watch the minimal Netball Superleague games available on Sky Sports YouTube, often at stupid o’clock in the morning my time, I saw the Roses New Zealand “test Series” squad announcement and thought to myself, “WOAH! Can’t see wait to see what these future stars will put out on court”.



Also as a hard-core netball fan I saw a team with NONE of the players who took to the court at the recent Netball World Cup, nor the Coach? Not even relatively new Roses like Liv Tchine, Fran Williams or the exciting Funmi Fadoju named who at least NZ fans would have been cognizant of due to the World Cup? NONE!

To borrow a popular phrase here in Australia when a team knows they are in finals, know they don’t need to win last few round games and rests players (think NRL Baby Broncos) and puts out minimal run on players, this is pretty much the “Baby Roses” – or do we call them Rose buds 😉 - and did Netball New Zealand know this was happening?

It didn’t take even 24 hours to realise that no, Netball New Zealand did not know they would be hosting the Baby Roses for a “test series” and I highlight this as playing for the Taini Jamison Trophy has gravitas (well it should) and to use soccer parlance this is not a ‘friendly’, this is a “test series”.  So Jennie Wyllie, Netball New Zealand CEO’s response was probably not surprising:

"One of our team sent through the media release and my reaction I don't  think is probably fit for TV... it's incredibly disappointing and quite  disrespectful for our players and for us as an organisation and a  country."

And so begins the “disrespectful” discourse on likes of twitter ☹

English fans are unhappy about “their” players being disrespected and how wrong people are to under-estimate their Netball Superleague players etc. I’ll note here that to be fair, considering the rest of the world can’t watch their elite netball competition, of course they are not going to see the potential and to be frank even NZ netball fans would see this as a team of “who the hell are these players?” and have expected more.

Reminder, this is a “test series” it is not a “friendly”.

Of course things escalated pretty quickly, with a voice most people who watch international netball know, New Zealand’s Jenny Woods "England B" reaction:

Disappointing. For "new look" side read England B. This is not what netball needs right now.

Not sure I would have phrased it like Jenny has but in one aspect she is correct, at this point in time, particularly ‘down under’, this is NOT what netball, particularly New Zealand netball “needs right now”.

With the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup success fresh in people’s minds this is a thing!

Many were upset that the results of the netball World Cup could not even get a tenth of the media coverage that the FIFAWWC received and this was before records for attendance and television coverage were smashed. Women’s sport has garnered interest, not just from sports fan but from broadcasters, sponsors and sports media. For New Zealand and Australia this is great for women’s sport, for netball that is lagging behind other women’s sports, well, it is a crux point. Can netball ride the wave of ‘women’s sport’ success currently happening or will other women’s sports grab the initiative and capitalise on the new found interest leaving netball to flounder?

For New Zealand in particular this is seriously important when you take into account the Silver Ferns have traditionally been the top of that women’s sport ladder at home. Unfortunately under-performing at the Netball World while the relatively unknown Football Ferns surprised and delighted fans at home, before that the Black Ferns won the Women’s Rugby World Cup, also at home to adoring fans, and I could be wrong, but are also playing at the end of this month too in New Zealand, well, Silver Ferns are facing some strong competition for hearts and minds there and this is before we even get into any other women’s sports like Rugby 7’s.

So just taking these factors into account you can understand that Netball New Zealand would be under a bit of pressure at the moment. Hell! There is even talk of a new “trans-Tasman netball competition on the cards”.

Thinking of the above, let’s get back to Jenny Woods now doubling down in a response on the England Netball Twitter roses announcement with:

I can't believe what I'm seeing. I thought @EnglandNetball was better than this.  At a time the sport needs to put out the best product it can ... you're sending a development squad. Unbelievable!

Again… I am not going to condone “how” Jenny phrased this but in the context of women’s sport at the moment, netball really does need to put out the best product it can.

I’m not sure if Jenny is coming from a place of being a fan of international netball, being a Silver Ferns fan, decades of involvement with netball or… as a Sky Sport’s commentator? Noting Jenny has been a netball commentator with them since 2007 and awareness of commercial ramifications may have been behind Jenny tripling down in a response to someone who said this was not a “team B”:

But why would any NZ netball fan pay money to watch them?

Jenny would be well aware that Netball New Zealand copped hell with the “Jamaican debacle” in the 2022 Taini Jamison series. That disaster cost New Zealand netball financially (ticket sales, venue changes etc) and reputationally. We will never know what went on behind the scenes between Netball New Zealand and the broadcaster Sky Sports and Sponsors? I can’t imagine it was a pleasant time at Netball New Zealand HQ.

I honestly can’t blame the likes of Jenny and Jennie having kittens waking up to the Baby Roses team announcement drop.

As I said, I won’t condone some of the language being used online and by those who should know better and are in positions of authority as it must be disheartening for any of those young Rose hopefuls heading to New Zealand to be called a “B team” and pretty much disparaged before they even hit a NZ court. I personally am looking forward to seeing them.

I know I will probably upset many on netball twitter but with information publicly available, I can only point the finger at England Netball.

This tour would have been organised quite a while ago. The Netball World Cup was always a known factor, same with some star players being rested afterwards. “IF” England Netball wanted to trial their untested Roses under tournament conditions then sure, not a problem, however that should have been communicated to Netball New Zealand right from the very beginning and this drama need not have unfolded at all.

If that was the case I’m sure the series would not have been marketed as a “test” and sure as hell not had Taini Jamison Trophy attached to it. It most likely would be been marketed totally differently, “exciting stars of the future” or something similar which host broadcaster and fans would most likely have gotten behind, hell, might even have come up with a new Trophy to start a new post World Cup tradition?

As an aside... How many of us watch the World Cup and see break-out stars and start dreaming of them getting a place in Australia's Super Netball, New Zealand's ANZ Premiership or the UK's Netball Superleague? It could have been a “Rising Stars Trophy” and maybe morphed into a Future Stars Quad Cup series style event, a must watch series after the end of each World Cup? Great for Netball fan, future national stars and a sports marketers dream.

Instead… We know from comments on Twitter and Facebook that many fans who have purchased tickets already are not happy as to be frank they feel ripped off, expecting a “test” with at least a few familiar Roses names. I can’t imagine the Broadcaster is very happy either, particularly after taking a bath on viewer numbers (and maybe advertising revenue) in the last Taini Jamison series and with so many other shiny women’s sports calling their name, well, fair bloody call for Netball New Zealand to want to make them happy as not only is broadcast of this particular series at issue, but netball broadcast in New Zealand in general and the revenue that goes with that?

England Netball fans can’t blame New Zealand fans because they don’t know future Netball Superleague stars?

They can’t physically watch it, so you can’t exactly blow up when fans over the other side of the world expecting to see Roses World Cup players in a “test series”, Roses who mind you actually beat eventual World Cup winner Australian Diamonds prior to getting Silver! and instead get a bunch of names they don’t even recognise.

This debacle is on England Netball and I hope all parties learn better communication and confirmation of detail from this, most importantly I hope this series can be salvaged.

Honestly, World Netball deserves better and if we are going to compete and more importantly thrive as a world sport – attracting the sports fans, sponsorship, broadcast deals and media attention we deserve to grow - we need to be very aware of the product we are putting out there in the sports landscape and basically to use a term I find annoying, “be better”.

by Noely
Talks too much on Twitter
Professional desk jockey

PS. Regardless of type of team picked I think we can all agree it is perfectly understandable for England Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby to be taking some much needed family time after powering through the Netball World Cup in South Africa in pretty terrible personal circumstances for her and her family with the death of her father. 


Noely Neate
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Noely Neate
Talks too much on Twitter
Professional desk jockey
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