Cara Koenen: Disappointed But Determined

Epic Mistake or Stroke of Genius?

Wow! What a week it has been. And just when we all thought we were finished with unexpected surprises for 2020…

If any of you are reading along, scratching your head, wondering what I might be talking about, I will elaborate. At the beginning of this week, it was announced that a new rule would be introduced to the 2020 SSN season; the ‘super shot’. To clarify, this rule stipulates that, for the last five minutes of each quarter and extra time, teams will be awarded two points for every goal scored from within a 1.9m distance from the outer edge of the circle.

Before I go on, I think it is important that I discuss 1) the rule itself and what it means for our game, from my perspective and 2) the way that the decision-making process pertaining to the super-shot rule was carried out.

By this stage, I am sure it is no secret that the clubs and playing group were in no way consulted in the lead-up to Monday’s announcement. In fact, we were graciously given a couple of hours to come to terms with the decision before a commercial release was published on social media. My feelings were summed up nicely by our Players’ Association statement, so I won’t spend too much more time on this.

However, I will say that since I began playing in this elite sporting competition, both myself and my teammates have poured our blood, sweat and tears into refining our craft and being the best possible athletes. So, to be excluded from a decision this significant, without consultation, amidst what is already a tumultuous year (littered with pandemics, job losses and pay cuts), was extremely disappointing.

In terms of the rule itself, I have spent the last week reading different articles and speaking to people to understand and consider a number of different perspectives. What I have come up with is this; I think that the implementation of a 2-point shot has the ability to change the fundamental strategies which underpin netball and, as someone who fell in love with the game as it is, I am not on board.

I have read some sources which have justified the introduction of the 2-point shot as a tactic to increase excitement and crowd/spectator engagement. A few articles have referenced the Bushfire Relief Match that was played earlier this year and the vibe inside the stadium during the final five minutes of each quarter. However, I have seen that same electric response achieved through an incredibly athletic Gretel Tippett lay-up, the unexpected Karla Pretorius intercept, a perfectly timed Shamera Sterling deflection, or an underdog team staging a fight-back in the dying minutes of the game.

I back the athleticism of our athletes and I believe we should do more to promote and showcase these things within the traditional rules of the game.

I understand and agree that we all hope to see more people getting behind our wonderful sport but at what cost? Do we really want to compromise the sport and distance ourselves from the grassroots game that everyone knows and loves?

Another statement discussed the rule as an attempt to generate more revenue to bridge the pay gap between male and female athletes. On the one hand, I always have and always will advocate for equality among athletes because I believe that female athletes uphold the same expectations and commit to an equivalent level of professionalism as our male counterparts. On the other, I truly wish we did not have to compromise the traditional game of netball in order to achieve this.

Finally, I feel the most disappointed when I think about the Members and fans of netball. I try to not make a habit of reading comments on social media but have allowed myself a small exception this week. ‘Not sure I’ll be keen to support SSN moving forward’ and ‘I have backed netball for 45 years and want to walk away now…’ It is truly devastating to read the resounding disappointment that is being felt throughout the netball community.

I cannot speak for every netball player but all of my greatest experiences in sport have been shared with the passionate supporters who turn up and cheer for us each day – rain, hail or shine.

In saying all of this, the decision has been made and I highly doubt there will be any backing out now. In my own opinion, netball with a rule change is a better option than no netball at all and as the professional athletes we are, I expect that each team will get on with the job.

At Lightning, we have already begun working with our shooters and in-circle defenders in order to determine how, if at all, this new rule affects our game.

In my eyes, this will not influence our competitiveness and our desire to be the team holding the trophy at the end of the 2020 season.

Until next time,
Cara Koenen