Opinion - Netball NZ's refusal to let Jamaica take the Taini Jamison trophy home is another PR failure for an organisation that really doesn't need one right now, writes Jamie Wall.
You have to hand it Netball NZ. Just when it seemed like they couldn't possibly do anything else wrong, this week saw the news that they don't know how a trophy works.
The word 'trophy' literally means a 'tangible reminder of a significant achievement'. That's why you have trophy presentations after someone wins something, so they can lift it up, celebrate with it, and drink out of it. Then you get to take it home and put it in a cabinet for everyone to see.
It's that last bit that Netball NZ has trouble understanding, because Jamaica left New Zealand without a reasonably important piece of baggage at the start of this month: the Taini Jamison Trophy. If you've forgotten, and you'd be forgiven for doing so given the complete downward spiral that the Silver Ferns have gone through since, that's the trophy that the Sunshine Girls won before the Commonwealth Games.
They did so by becoming the first Jamaican team to record successive wins against New Zealand ever and the first to get a win in New Zealand. A remarkable effort by an outstanding group of athletes, so you'd think they'd be able to get something to remind them of the achievement. But not according to some bureaucratic nonsense from Netball NZ head of events, Kate Agnew:
"Each series is a discrete competition. It is not a defendable trophy. Each series stands alone and each series is recorded on the trophy. Jamaica won the series. They don't hold the trophy. Each series is independent of all the others so you can win the trophy but it doesn't mean you are the holder."
Of course, this explanation fails a simple examination on the basis of linguistics, first and foremost. If it's not 'defendable' it's not a trophy. If you can't 'win' it, it's not one either. So, by all means, call it the Taini Jamison Series to honour the former coach of the Silver Ferns. But don't chuck in a piece of silverware that you can't actually take with you.
Especially considering that it's standard practice to have replicas of the most important trophies in world sport. It's not even a secret either, World Rugby routinely publicise the fact that they have at least two versions of the William Webb Ellis trophy to use for promotional purposes - as well as one that the winners get to keep.
The fact that it was brought to light by the Jamaicans makes Netball NZ look foolish, because they clearly didn't tell anyone that it wasn't going anywhere regardless of the result. The response about 'discrete competition' doesn't really do much to convince anyone that this is nothing more than another PR failure for an organisation that really doesn't need one right now.
However, it may shine some light on the sort of decision-making processes that have landed Netball NZ in the mess that it's in. If they can't even get the logistics of letting someone win a trophy right, then it goes a long way to explaining why the ANZ Championship got disbanded. Also how Janine Southby remains as coach, despite seemingly not having the coaching credentials or staff around her to take a high school side. And why Laura Langman decided that playing pro in Australia was a better option than representing her country under the current regime.
Right now, Netball NZ have comfortably overtaken NZ Football as the leading contender for most inept sporting body in the country. But while they haven't picked any ineligible players like the soccer boys did, it's because they adhered to the draconian and nonsensical rules that they made up around that themselves.
You get the feeling that there's a lot more to come in the fallout of the Commonwealth Games netball debacle. But, for now, Netball NZ could at least do themselves a favour and quietly courier the Taini Jamison Trophy to Kingston, Jamaica.
Because handing over a trophy is what you do when you get beaten.