Netball ACT is in a somewhat unique predicament. As many sports face a constant battle to secure enough facilities, it has enough courts but some are unplayable because of the state of the surfaces.
The situation has forced Netball ACT to prioritise repairing existing facilities to cater for the 6000-plus participants across its competitions.
To emphasise the size of the sport in Canberra, this number doesn’t include the 180 social teams playing at the Lyneham Indoor Netball Centre four nights a week in winter and summer competitions.
Netball ACT CEO Dr Sally Clark said catering for everybody who wanted to play the sport was the priority.
“All sports in Canberra were asked by the ACT Government to put forward their priorities for facilities for the next 10 years,” she said. “ACT Netball prioritised the district courts because participation is our focus.”
The district courts in Lyneham, Calwell, Deakin, Charnwood and Stirling are the main centres for netball in Canberra with competitions run by five associations.
The problem is that not all courts are available for use because water damage due to inadequate drainage.
“Some are worse than others,” Sally said. “Some courts are out of action because they are dangerous.”
In an increasingly litigious era, coupled with the desire to have as many people playing the sport as possible, it’s understandable why Netball ACT has prioritised fixing existing facilities as opposed to a grand plan for a new stadium.
Not that refurbishing the Lyneham indoor centre is completely off the radar.
“We would love to improve the facility to include a show court to attract major events such as the Giants or the Diamonds,” Sally said.
For the time being though, the focus is on improving existing outdoor courts with the ACT Government allocating $7.4 million in the budget for resurfacing and drainage work.
Once the work is completed over the next two years, ACT Netball will be well on track to return to pre-COVID levels of participation. Even then the sport may not reach its full potential.
“We have enough courts but our districts would like more covered structures to allow play during wet weather,” Sally said.
Another focus for Netball ACT is ensuring a pathway for local players seeking to compete at a higher level.
That has been put into practice with the selection of the Darters squad with 10 Canberra players and two imports in the 12-player team for the Australian Netball Championships.
The championships are played over a week at the one venue.
“There’s a push to have a league competition, including Darters home games again,” Sally said.
The visibility of local players competing at this level has the potential to lift the profile of the sport and increase player numbers.
For the moment though the focus is on ensuring those who already play the sport are able to safely participate.