Announcing a bumper netball programme for the upcoming year on Wednesday, Netball South Africa President Mimi Mthethwa said that a strong showing by the SPAR Proteas at the Netball World Cup in Australia in July and the staging of the second edition of the Brutal Fruit Netball Cup would be two of the highlights on their calendar for 2015.
“The SPAR Proteas are our pride and joy and we invest a great deal of time, effort and financial resources into the team. Our goal is to improve our current world ranking of 6th at the tournament and obviously we would like to win a medal,” said Mthethwa.
The event, which starts on May 8 this year, is currently in the running for the Best New Sport Sponsorship category of the Sports Industry Awards, the only female event on the list.
“The Brutal Fruit Cup was an incredible success last year and we have learnt a lot. For 2015 South Africa can expect even bigger and better action. We expect much more involvement from provinces, hence the planned roadshows in each province where we would engage all stakeholders to discuss our plans for this year’s BFNC, how teams could be marketed within each province, as well as how we could ensure that fan-bases are created. We want it to be a truly national showpiece that also gets recognition regionally and internationally.”
Behind the scenes though, it’s at grass roots level where Mthethwa and her team expect to focus most of their time and resources. Netball SA’s districts are divided along the same borders as the more than 40 municipal districts, and while some are flourishing others are not functional.
“We will be auditing structures in all netball districts to gauge and ensure their functionality. We need to support weaker provinces as they prepare for the provincial championships in all nine provinces based on overall performance at our tournaments and elite competitions. We are also looking into appointing development officers to coordinate Netball SA development programmes,” she said.
“It’s especially important to assist these areas to develop high performance programmes aimed at fast-tracking players of colour who are not linked to any institution of higher learning and in the process help develop the weaker provinces,” she said.
Mthethwa said there was an exciting year ahead for the sport. Having three top South African players selected to teams in the UK Super League was a case in point as well as staging the second Fast5 National Series in February and reintroducing regional provincial championships to the calendar. There was also the possibility of reviving the Diamond Challenge tournament and strengthening the working relationship between Netball SA and the Ministry of Sport, which has provided continuous support to the federation.
“We know that we face a number of challenges, chief among them is to continue the momentum that has led to significant growth of the sport, especially after last year’s successes. We also need to develop better relationship with SA Schools Netball association who we will continue to engage seriously this year.”