Injury prevention and player welfare are the heart of several temporary rule changes for the upcoming Suncorp Super Netball season.
After widespread consultation and discussion with medical experts, high performance managers, players and clubs, it has been determined that;
- The number of players permitted in each match will be raised from 10 to 12. This includes 10 full squad members and two additional players who may be training partners or other players, subject to several requirements. The additional two players can change between matches according to club needs.
- The bonus point system will be suspended for the 2020 season. This change is designed to ensure that playing load is distributed more widely across each team’s group of athletes. Removal of the bonus point will reduce the incentive to keep certain players on the court longer in pursuit of winning a quarter.
- Introduction of extra time to resolve drawn games will be postponed until the 2021 season. This decision is in line with advice on player load, potential injury and the likely impact of extra time periods on athletes who have had reduced or interrupted pre-seasons.
These changes will be supported by the Suncorp Super Netball Injury Surveillance Manager, a new role that will provide up-to-the-minute data to senior medical, high performance and administrative staff at league and club level throughout the season.
Suncorp Super Netball CEO Chris Symington said the initiatives were designed to protect player health and welfare which in turn would support a season in which the world’s best netball players could showcase their skills in a condensed program of games.
“We made these changes because healthy athletes mean a healthy season where players are given enough rest to keep them at the top of their game. I want to thank the many people who have contributed to this outcome with their flexibility, collaboration and determination to create a vibrant and dynamic season,” he said.
“I also want to thank fans who have continued to support their clubs during this unprecedented period and assure them that bonus points and extra time will return in 2021 when we run a full season.”
Australian Netball Players’ Association chief Kathryn Harby-Williams said the decisions were important measures to protect both players and the sustainability of the condensed 2020 season.
“Front and centre right now is managing the wellbeing and physical load of our athletes given the unusual preseason they have had leading into this condensed season. We appreciate the league considering the feedback from all stakeholders, including the players, to inform their decision making,” she said.
This was supported by Netball Australia Chief Medical Officer, Dr Susan White who said: “It’s crucial that, as a league, we made these changes to support the health and safety of our athletes in an unusual and condensed season format.”
According to West Coast Fever Strength and Condition coach, Liam Warwick, these rule changes will give coaches greater flexibility to control the workload of each athlete.
“The implications of COVID-19 on an interrupted preseason and condensed fixture may lead to an increase in athlete injury rates. The current fixture is unprecedented in Suncorp Super Netball, and it will be fascinating to see how each team structures their training and game-day approach with rules such as the rolling sub to maximise their performance throughout the length of the season.”
The Suncorp Super Netball seasons starts on Saturday when the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning clash at the Nissan Arena in Brisbane. The highly-anticipated derby is the first match in a condensed fixture that will see teams from across the country play rounds 1-6 in Queensland and New South Wales before a second phase which will be announced in coming weeks.