Developments in the Region
Networking, developing links and synergies with other associations especially in the Pacific region where we have traditional, social and economic ties makes sense, when considering what has to be done to motivate and bolster development of netball in PNG.
Regionally the sport is receiving quite a windfall in development funds because regional powers, Australia and New Zealand recognise the link between development and sport, especially for the Pacific.
To remain isolated and think that we can do it on our own is counter productive regardless of the perspective and any drive in that direction would be disastrous.
Domestically, netball is experiencing considerable pressure from other female sports and as its visibility to the sporting public continues to diminish so does its ranking as a preferred sport among young women. This is directly the result of a continual decline in the maintenance of existing netball facilities, very little development of new facilities, an element of regression in administration and governance, low marketing profile, unfair media coverage and a real reduction in equitable corporate and government support,
In 2009, at the Pacific Island Forum meeting in Cairns Australia, the Rudd Government indicated its support for a focus on Sport as a catalyst for development in the Pacific, pledging some AUD$26 million to build partnerships through sports. On 11th April 2010, the Australian Federal Minister for Sports, Kate Ellis, announced a package of AUD$2.9 Million, specifically for developing netball among Pacific Island communities.
Taking advantage of the opportunities available to PNG now will be pivotal for the sport. Retention of the existing support base, including enthusiasts and supporters are essential for growth as once the trend starts, their migration to other forms of recreation may prove difficult to reverse. This should not even be a consideration, but that is now the sad reality. Netball should be considering how it will cater for growth rather than contemplating survival.
The Pacific Sport Partnership program that Australia has undertaken to spearhead in 2009 has been embraced with enthusiasm by countries in the region. Vanuatu is the most recent association to receive a considerable package through the Pacific Netball Partnership of some 17 Million Vatu. Over the next five years this program will assist in the development of facilities there, improve the technical aspects of their game and to promote good governance.
The Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and other Pacific Island associations will have put in similar submissions for assistance as has Papua New Guinea.
The development issue for Papua New Guinea has always been fragmentation and the element of personality politics, our inability to sit together and work for a common goal. The situation in Lae, where there has not been a proper competition for the last three years primarily because of a conflict of personalities among the association's executives, is a classic example.
The good thing is, these issues are fixable and there are also positives we can embrace.
It is also good that the sporting population netball is targeted at, still maintains a strong preference for netball as a gender biased sport and that competitively, other sports presently have similar internal issues to contend with. The problem however, is that this will not always be the case as other sports overcome their shortcomings. Netball has to be pragmatic and revisit the landscape it currently occupies and more importantly, be able forecast what may be looming on the horizon.
Despite our historical, economic and social ties with Australia, Netball Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands continue to have an advantage over PNG in that they each have a very strong tie with Netball Australia and Netball New Zealand. For this region, it is important. Though our successes place us in high regard with these particular associations, Papua New Guinea still sits very much on the periphery, just outside that circle.
To break through a sustained effort will be needed to develop similar, if not the same ties Fiji, the Cook Islands and Samoa enjoy.