By Erin Longney
Super Netball recently announced the introduction of the 'Super Shot' - in which the last five minutes of each quarter, any shot taken from within the super shot zone is worth two points. This Super Shot was first introduced in the Bushfire Relief Match Between the Diamonds and SSN All-Stars, where it was argued that the super-shot added a level of intensity and excitement to the game.
I attended the bushfire relief match, and my experience with the super shot, which is echoed by countless other fans, is that it has the exact opposite effect. Excitement is fuelled by close games with narrow margins, a principle that is not just applicable to netball, but rather is universal across most sports. This notion is completely undermined by the super shot. While the bushfire relief match started out close, the introduction of the super shot saw the margin between the two teams widen considerably, and the further apart the scores, the less exciting the game became. Some of the most memorable games from the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season were the tights ones, with close margins that came down to the last second. If the bushfire relief match is anything to go by, the super shot will make the likelihood of these close games much rarer.
SSN players were not consulted before the landmark decision, and many have expressed their dismay at the rule change on social media. Melbourne Vixens goal shooter Caitlin Thwaites expressed her frustration on twitter, stating "Players not being consulted over the biggest rule change netball has seen is terrible". Many other SSN athletes have expressed similar sentiments, including Australian Diamonds Captain, Caitlin Bassett.
In fact, in March, Super Netball released a fan poll that floated the idea of a super shot, and the resounding answer was no. The Super Netball website even published an article that outlined the overwhelming negative response to the proposal. The conversation about the two-point shot has been happening for years, and it is clear that the overwhelming majority does not support it. Years ago, former Diamonds Captain Laura Geitz publicly opposed the idea, stating that “As a defender, you try to push your player as far away as possible from the post, but that (a scoring zone) would mean you’d be wanting to push them closer to the post … that changes the game."
One of the key reasons justifying the introduction of the Super Shot is that it will serve as an enticing, thrilling new aspect of the game that will attract and gain the support of new fans. “With the ever-growing competition for the attention of fans, the time is right to introduce an innovation that will make the game even more dynamic and unpredictable,” says Super Netball CEO Chris Symington. Ironically though, in an attempt to recruit new fans, the existing loyal and passionate fanbase has been made to feel alienated and without a voice.
The mentality adopted by those involved in introducing and advocating for the two-point shot is that for SSN to continue leading the way in elite netball leagues across the world, and continue paving the way for women’s sport, the league must be adaptable and flexible, following in the footsteps of recent rule changes made in the NRL. Super Netball chair Marina Go stated in an announcement that "Male sports are making innovative changes to their rules to increase the entertainment value of the game and they’re doing that to position themselves to greater revenue opportunities ... we need to be as agile as them.”
There is a common hope shared by those who support and those who oppose the two-point shot, which is for elite netball to continue to grow and expand, and for more widespread appreciation and recognition of the sport. It’s clear that Super Netball believes the super-shot is one way netball can begin to work towards this goal, with the Super Netball chair citing a primary reason behind the introduction of the super shot being to ‘attract more revenue so that one day we might be able to achieve gender pay equity for our incredible athletes.’
The thing is, the netball community is not explicitly opposed to any form of change. Other rule changes, such as extra time and rolling substitutions, have seen a largely positive response from netball fans and players. In fact, the two-point shot rule has been successfully implemented into the Fast 5 format of netball, where it is widely praised and enjoyed. Change and flexibility can most certainly be beneficial, but the question is: Why this rule? Why now? Especially considering the chaos and uncertainty already shrouding the 2020 season due to COVID-19 complications, this abrupt rule change just seems to create more divisiveness and disruption. Is it setting the league backwards, rather than leading the way?
It is clear that there a multitude of valid reasons why the netball community does not want to see this rule implemented in Super Netball - and it is not simply because we are opposed to change. It is highly likely that the super shot will have the opposite effect that Netball Australia is intending, with increased scoring margins decreasing the excitement-factor that accompanies the thrill of close games. With the Super Netball season approaching quickly, we will soon see firsthand the impact of the super shot on the game. If anything, let’s hope it helps the Swifts retain the title.