1 Dec 2023

Australian netballers pushing for more pay "slept in cars"

8:09 am on 1 December 2023
Australia Diamonds players.

Australia Diamonds players. Photo: Photosport

Players in Australia's domestic netball league have "slept in their cars" as a pay dispute continues, former Diamonds captain Kathryn Harby-Williams says.

Governing body Netball Australia (NA) have not paid players since September, when their last contract expired.

Harby-Williams, the chief executive of the Australian Netball Players' Association (ANPA), said they are "desperate" to strike a deal.

Australia's Super Netball League is considered to be the best in the world.

While the dispute has come to a head since the collective contract expired in September, players have been trying to make a deal on pay with NA, who oversee salaries in the league, since February.

The players have proposed a revenue-share model that would mean 15 percent of any money generated from new sponsorship deals above what is forecast would go to the players.

NA say any form of revenue share is not viable and the governing body are due to meet with the ANPA on Friday to try to reach a solution.

On Wednesday, they proposed an immediate offer to players, which included a 11 percent pay rise over a three-year term, back-dated to October 1st, and a promise to continue negotiating the revenue-sharing component.

NA chief executive Kelly Ryan said in a statement the offer "would allow players to be paid immediately, while we continue negotiations with ANPA on building a financial model for the league".

She added: "We hope this will provide all parties the certainty and stability they seek." 

Kathryn Harby-Williams

Kathryn Harby-Williams Photo: Photosport

The offer was rejected by the players, with Harby-Williams labelling it a "publicity stunt".

In a media conference on Wednesday, Australia defender and ANPA president Jo Weston broke down in tears and Harby-Williams said it showed the "emotional toll" the situation is taking on players.

"We are desperate to get a deal done for these players," she said.

"I have had players sobbing and weeping, players have slept in their cars, players have had to move out of their homes and move across the country back to families.

"That's the toll that this is taking on these players."

Liz Ellis speaks out

The ongoing pay dispute leaves Super Netball franchises unable to contract players until an agreement is done, meaning no teams in the league have announced their squads for the 2024 season, which starts in April.

Ryan said the governing body had "listened to the players and their need for financial certainty right now".

However, former Australia captain Liz Ellis said NA had treated the players with "callous disregard" after they were threatened with legal action if they did not attend an awards dinner on Saturday.

The Diamonds, who won the World Cup in Cape Town in August, said they planned to boycott the awards ceremony with the pay dispute still ongoing, but NA said they would take legal action if they did not attend.

On Channel 10's The Project, Ellis expressed concerns a deal would never be reached because the relationship was now "poisoned".

Sharelle McMahon, Liz Ellis, and Catherine Cox with the World Trophy after the Final of the Netball World Championships between New Zealand & Australia


The pay dispute comes after mining company Hancock Prospecting pulled a sponsorship deal with NA worth $A15 million ($NZ16.1 million).

It followed Donell Wallam, the Australia squad's only Aboriginal player, privately raising concerns about the company's Indigenous record.

Tourism company Visit Victoria stepped in as sponsor, replacing the lost funds, but NA announced earlier this year they are A$4.2m in debt, having been unable to fully recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

NA could also miss out on A$18 million in public funding after the Australian government said it had not received a satisfactory business case for the money.

Melbourne-based club Collingwood Magpies also withdrew from the Super Netball League at the end of the season, citing NA's financial plight as a major reason behind the decision.

The Mavericks subsequently replaced the Magpies.

- This story first apeared on the BBC