The netball fraternity in Nelson Mandela Bay is optimistic that the hosting of the upcoming Netball World Cup next year, will be instrumental in developing the sport in the country.
Funding and infrastructure remain the biggest challenges facing Netball.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Netball community awarded its top athletes at a glittering event in Gqeberha.
Netball is one of the biggest women’s sports in the country, but also one of the most under-developed sporting codes. Sponsorship and playing fields are some of the challenges facing this sport.
“We don’t have an office, we are all volunteers in the sport and in the ultimate, we would like to have an office so that netball is not run at the backdrop or from the boot of someone’s car”, says NMB Netball President Noluntu Dyubhele.
South Africa will be hosting the 2023 World Cup edition- the first time the tournament takes place on the continent. There is hope that this World Cup will also leave a legacy that will make the sport more competitive and develop the game.
Growth of the sport
“At grassroots, there are no fields to play. They either play at basketball fields or soccer fields. We are hoping that the world cup will leave a legacy of infrastructure, a legacy of capacity development so that children can play netball in a way they are supposed to play,” says Dyubhele.
Great strides have been made to improve the game, with the first-ever semi-professional netball league being formed in 2014. The league started with ten teams but has expanded to 13 teams this year. The Eastern Cape team competing in the second division of the league was crowned winners and gained promotion to the first division.
“I think the sport is definitely growing throughout the country, some of the players have been contracted to the Proteas. So it’s definitely up and coming, the game is also growing and the intensity has grown and people are getting more competitive,” says Easter Cape Aloes captain Jeanine Steyn.
In next year’s World Cup, the South African Netball team will be looking to emulate the performance displayed in the 1995 World Cup, where they were runners-up to Australia. Playing on home soil, there are high expectations that the Proteas will go all the way.
“I think we just need to take this world cup and go to it mentally and physically prepared and take just one day, one game, one quarter at a time. That is the only way you are going to win the World Cup. We cannot go back to being number five, we need to go forward. We need to build. We need to have a mission and vision going to the world cup next year,” says Aloes coach Sameshia Esau.
The Netball World Cup will take place from July 28 to August 6 at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town.