Kelly Ryan has quit as chief executive of Netball Australia.
Kelly Ryan has quit as chief executive of Netball Australia. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • netball

Netball Australia boss Ryan quits following pay war

Oliver Caffrey December 12, 2023

Netball Australia boss Kelly Ryan has quit following a bitter pay war with the players’ union, paving the way for the sport to rebuild from the ugliest period in its history.

Having taken up the chief executive role in mid-2021, Ryan has resigned – effective immediately – after the long-running dispute over a new collective player agreement (CPA) finally ended last week.

Her departure comes after Diamonds players were sent a legal letter last month reminding them they were required to attend the Netball Australia (NA) awards night.

Days later, players’ union boss Kathryn Harby-Williams and Diamonds star Jo Weston fronted an emotional press conference, detailing what they called the draining nature of the pay dispute.

Union president Weston broke down in tears as players went public with explosive claims against NA, including that the governing body was responsible for the collapse of a multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with Hancock Prospecting.

Ryan’s exit after a rocky two-year stint was confirmed on Tuesday via a statement saying she had “delivered on the objectives of the board”.

“Having reached an in-principle agreement on the CPA pay deal, and watched with pride as our Diamonds won the Commonwealth Games and the Netball World Cup, the timing felt right to hand over the reins to a new leader,” Ryan said.

“We overcame the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic to continue a national competition through border closures, experienced strong growth in the national competition, grew netball’s already strong participation numbers, and strengthened the game’s finances.

“Netball Australia has a wonderful team of people who work tirelessly for the benefit of the sport, and I thank them for their continued efforts and for their support.” 

CEO Kelly Ryan (second right) with Super Netball captains.
 A long and bitter pay dispute spelled the end of Kelly Ryan’s time as CEO of Netball Australia. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

Pressure built on Ryan as netball legends such as Liz Ellis and Joyce Brown called for change.

Last week, Brown, a Diamonds World Cup-winning captain and coach, started an online petition, saying Australian netball needed “new leadership”.

“These failures are destroying our sport’s reputation and have taken a huge toll on the sport’s finances and future,” Brown wrote.

In an interview this month, Ryan conceded the pay battle could affect the 2024 Super Netball season – due to begin in April – and have a lasting impact on the sport in Australia.

“We’re still on a financial tightrope,” she said.

Stacey West, NA’s executive general manager of performance, will fill Ryan’s role on an interim basis.

“Kelly Ryan has made an enormous contribution to our sport in her time leading Netball Australia,” the organisation’s chairwoman Wendy Archer said. 

“She has shown great resilience and integrity during her leadership over her time as CEO.”