Diamonds captain Liz Watson concedes it “wasn’t ideal” for players to have to publicly lash Netball Australia over the current pay dispute that has left players stressed and without club contracts as the bitter fight with the sport’s governing body continues.
But Watson is also adamant that it won’t distract her teammates as they prepare for the Constellation Cup.
Against the backdrop of a chaotic off-season that ramped up this week as pay talks broke down again, Australia will take on New Zealand in a four-game series beginning in Melbourne on Thursday.
Super Netball deals expired on September 30 with players’ futures left in limbo amid an ongoing dispute between Netball Australia and the players’ association over the collective players agreement.
The ANPA released a statement on Monday criticising the governing body for rejecting the players’ “modest requests” and offering an “unfair three-year deal” that “rejected a real partnership with the players”.
Netball Australia said it had offered a 20 per cent boost to the CPA to $1.275m over three years, but the two sides appear likely to enter mediation that could drag on for months.
Watson said the Diamonds would be able to put the dispute to one side as they turned their attention to the New Zealand series, their first since winning the World Cup in August.
“Absolutely not, we’re very professional, we’re here with the Diamonds and about to play in a very exciting series,” she said when asked if the talks would be a distraction.
“Obviously, there’s been things bubbling along in the background, but we have a lot of trust in our association, our delegates back home … they have really stepped up to take on that bigger role while we can be here and perform and be fully Diamonds.
“To go public with (the statement) was not ideal, it’s something we didn’t want to have to do … it sort of got to that point.”
Watson, who is expected to leave Melbourne Vixens for Sunshine Coast Lightning when the CPA is finalised, said the situation was “stressful” after players had expected negotiations to be resolved before the World Cup.
“It obviously is stressful … no one has security of a club, I guess that does bring a lot of stress in different ways,” she said.
“We know that it’s going to get there, and we’re working really hard to get the best deal and best outcome for our whole league.
“It’s for that security, to start planning for the future … pre-seasons will start very, very soon, so ideally as quickly as it can be (resolved).”
Australia did not have to play New Zealand at the World Cup after England upset the Silver Ferns to claim a 46-40 win in the semi-final, and Watson said the Diamonds were expecting a strong contest from a youthful side led by world-class shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
“I think Australia is still very excited about (the World Cup win), and so are we. It’s awesome to be back here in Melbourne to share that with our fans,” Watson said.
“It’s always really close, tight and fierce when we play the Ferns, so we know it’s going to be a great game.”
CONSTELLATION CUP FIXTURE
Thursday Oct 12, 7.30pm: Diamonds v Silver Ferns, John Cain Arena – Melbourne
Sunday Oct 15, 7.30pm: Diamonds v Silver Ferns, Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Thursday Oct 19, 5.30pm: Silver Ferns v Diamonds, ILT Stadium – Invercargill
Monday Oct 23, 2pm: Silver Ferns v Diamonds, Spark Arena – Auckland