Jo Weston
Teary Diamonds defender Jo Weston says the wages dispute with Netball Australia is taking its toll. Image by Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS
  • netball

Toll on players revealed in Netball Australia pay fight

Shayne Hope November 30, 2023

Players union boss Kathryn Harby-Williams has accused Netball Australia of conducting a “publicity stunt” with their latest pay offer and won’t rule out further industrial action if a deal cannot be reached this week.

It comes as disillusioned players consider whether to pass a vote of no confidence in the sport’s governing body amid a bitter saga which has left players unpaid for the past two months.

The Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) are set to meet with NA in Melbourne on Friday to try to hammer out an agreement.

Both sides insist they are hopeful of a resolution but appear some way apart, with details around a revenue-sharing model the major sticking point.

NA’s latest offer included an 11 per cent pay rise over a three-year term and pay back-dated to October 1, with a promise to continue negotiating the revenue-sharing component.

The deal would have allowed players to return to training to prepare for the 2024 Super Netball season.

But ANPA chief executive and former Diamonds captain Harby-Williams lashed NA’s offer, claiming the governing body had already rejected an interim pay deal two months ago when players’ contracts expired.

“For it to be put on the table now is confusing because it was a part-deal,” Harby-Williams said.

“I thought a page was missing because there was no reference to revenue-sharing or the commercial arrangement.

“It was just a publicity stunt as far as we’re concerned.”

Harby-Williams said she had been through many emotional conversations with players over the past two months as she revealed the toll of the pay dispute.

“I speak to players and I have had players sobbing, I’ve had them weeping,” Harby-Williams said.

“Players have slept in their cars, players have had to move out of their homes and move across the country back to their families.

“That’s the toll that this is taking on these players.”

Diamonds star and ANPA president Jo Weston burst into tears when discussing the situation.

“It’s been real hard,” the Melbourne Vixens defender said on Thursday.

“All of us just want to be able to move forward with what we think is fair and reasonable for the playing group.

“We want to feel like we’re valued, respected and listened to.”

The players’ plan for a meeting to discuss a vote of no confidence in NA was one of 21 resolutions unanimously agreed to by the group, released at a media conference on Thursday.

NA chief executive Kelly Ryan conceded the ongoing pay battle could impact the 2024 Super Netball season – due to begin in April – and have a lasting impact on the sport in Australia.

Ryan said she is unsure whether players have a full appreciation of netball’s financial struggles following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re still in a financial tightrope,” Ryan told SEN on Thursday.

“We’re trying to make sure we make the right investments in the right areas, that includes our players, but minimising the impact on us longer term.

“We want to get from where we are today to out of his financial situation as quick as we possibly can.”

Ryan was probed about $17 million funding –  part of a A$30m pledge in 2019 – with the federal government stating this week it hadn’t received a “sufficiently robust” business case, which the money was subject to.

Ryan said they were still hopeful of using the money for community netball and grass-roots development, and it wasn’t able to be used to solve their financial woes.

“Obviously, we’re dealing with a completely different financial landscape than when the original investment was made and we’ll continue to work with the federal government and Sports Commission around how and if that funding gets allocated so that’s still an ongoing conversation,” she said.