Heading into its third season, Super Netball finds itself in a bit of a dilemma.
Forced to split in two with a World Cup scheduled right in the middle, you could argue that whoever is in charge in netball-land is either a genius or simply asking too much of the players.
Well and truly established as the best domestic league in the world, this year, 21 international players lining up in the eight-club competition.
England will have more players down under than a starting team, with only four of the 12 Roses from January’s Quad Series not active on Australian soil.
Veteran England defender Geva Mentor is one of those internationals who will use the Super Netball competition as preparation for July’s World Cup at Liverpool,England.
“Mentally and physically this year is going to be really tough and demanding,” Mentor said.
A battle of tactics – on and off the court
In addition to the English influx, netballers from New Zealand, the Caribbean and Africa will play alongside and against 19 members of coach Lisa Alexander’s Diamonds squad in this year’s domestic competition.
“I’m retired [from the national team], so I don’t have to think about this international stuff,” Giants captain Kim Green said.
“We’ve got so many internationals in the whole of Super Netball, so it’ll be very interesting to see how they’re managed in their own teams.”
Those that make the final cut for the World Cup, starting in Liverpool on July 12, will get two weeks off to prepare after round nine of the Super Netball season.
Should the Diamonds progress to the bronze or gold medal matches, they would have played eight games of netball in 10 days.
They will then have a week to recover from the rigours of the World Cup, which ends on July 21, and be back playing Round 10 of Super Netball, from July 27-28.
After that, there will be only four rounds left before the semi-finals.
Mentor said there was every chance this interruption could lead to a lag at the back end of the season.
“We recognised it a little bit last year – going straight into Super Netball after the Commonwealth Games – there was some down time and lag for the first couple of rounds before everyone found their feet,” she said.
“But we’ve got some expert people in place at each club and also across the league, so hopefully we’ve learned lessons from that and we’ll be able to apply them to the World Cup this year.”
For the Diamonds’ arch rival, New Zealand’s Silver Ferns, it has been a vastly different approach.
Netball New Zealand decided to run its domestic competition earlier, skirting the need for a split.
Its season will end in early June, well ahead of the World Cup’s start date.
As one of just two Silver Ferns involved in Super Netball, Laura Langman said the scheduling would also be a test for coaches.
As a result, the Sunshine Coast captain expects strategy around player management will determine the Super title.
“I know there was a lot of hype around New Zealand starting better having got their league done and dusted early, and it’s going to be a bit of a spanner in the works in terms of the energy and the bodies coming back from World Cup,” Langman said.
“But there’s so much hype around it and we want our sport to be in the forefront of everyone’s minds 24/7.
“What better way to do that than to start out with a bit of a teaser, have the big stuff with World Cup, and then take the opportunity to showcase how professional netball is when we come back after the break.”
An all-Victorian affair
While Lightning and the Giants have been dominant in both previous Super Netball seasons, many are tipping the Magpies and Melbourne Vixens to be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.
The Magpies failed to meet the level of hype surrounding their star-studded team in the inaugural league, but with three players departing after retirement and some great recruitment, including replacing AFLW-bound defender Sharni Layton with Mentor, they have revamped themselves as serious favourites for season three.
The Vixens will be the team most affected by World Cup selection, with a strong possibility that nine of their players could very well be selected and head to Liverpool.
The first round of Super Netball starts on April 27.