On Sunday the 5th February, BBC2 showed live coverage of England v Australia in the International Netball Quad Series and what a spectacle it was, it was first class netball at its finest.
I was pleasantly surprised when I turned the TV on to see an England Netball game being broadcast on a mainstream channel. These opportunities don’t happen often! I settled down as the game started and my eyes barely flickered from the screen for the duration of the game.
Australia asserted their authority from the first quarter, building a 13-9 lead after 15 minutes, but England remained competitive constantly chasing the Aussies. Australia were 24-21 up at half-time but the Roses recovered and went on to lead the world number one side in the third quarter. With 10 seconds to go, England needed only one goal to take the game to extra time, but Diamonds captain Sharni Layton produced a match-winning interception.
Australia took a 47-46 victory and with it, the Quad Series title.
The Quad Series is a new tournament bringing together the top four netballing nations (England Roses, Australian Diamonds, New Zealand Silver Ferns and South Africa Proteas). It was designed to give the countries involved a chance to compete at the very highest level outside of the World Championships or Commonwealth Games.
For the first time ever we were able to experience the thrill of the Netball Quad Series on home soil as England played Australia in the SSE Arena, London and New Zealand took on South Africa in the Echo Arena, Liverpool.
Netball is not a sport you see on TV all that often, but it should be.
The noise in the SSE Arena was electric, especially when England edged ahead of the Diamonds. It was so refreshing to see the Arena full of cheering fans, many of them young girls who were avidly watching the game unfold. There was no booing or abuse, just positive cheers and instructions being yelled out to their players.
Netball on an international stage is first-class. The ball zips around continuously and the two teams move with it, the marking so close. The feats of athleticism shown in the England v Australia game was staggering. The players leapt like high jumpers to intercept balls, they had the speed of sprinters to get from one end of the court to the other and the ball handling skills of top rugby players. They changed direction impressively quick and maintained the fast pace throughout the whole game- there’s no downtime on the court when you’re a netball player (I know this, I used to play Centre).
It is a sport made for TV: it is exciting, fast paced, high energy, very physical (technically non-contact), end to end and the games are very high scoring. You’ve not got to worry about 0-0 draws in a game of netball.
Netball is a sport all girls are introduced to early at school. I was playing netball before I was playing any other sport. It is in fact the country’s biggest female team sport. According to England Netball, one million women play it every week. It is hugely popular yet it has often struggled to find an audience.
That is hopefully changing…
Sky Sports have signed the biggest ever TV rights deal for netball in the UK. A new four-year Netball deal will see every live match made available on Sky Sports Mix. They are broadcasting international and Superleague netball as well as the Quad Series. The Sky Sports Mix is a new channel that includes more women’s sport and it is available to Sky TV customers and not just subscribers to Sky Sports.
Great news if you’re a Sky TV customer, not so great if you aren’t…
The Sky Sports deal is a major development for English Netball and women’s sport. It is fantastic that netball is finally getting the backing it deserves. However, I do hope BBC continue to cover netball so that those who aren’t Sky TV customers can also have access to the brilliant sport.
Regular media coverage will enable millions more people to experience first-class netball and hopefully inspire viewers to go out and play the sport.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching England v Australia and I’d love to see more games in the future. It was so thrilling and netball at its best really is an outstanding example of female athleticism.
What do you think? Do you want to see more netball on TV? Do you watch it when it’s televised?