Super Netball has moved to address concern over an increased risk of injury during a condensed season by announcing temporary rule changes, including the introduction of an extended bench.
The delayed 2020 season starts this week with a hectic initial six-week period scheduled, most of which will be played in Queensland due to the resurgence of the Covid-19 outbreak elsewhere.
Some teams face tricky three-day turnarounds during the initial phase of fixtures, prompting fears over injury and player burnout and leading to calls from the players’ association to allow an extended bench.
As of Saturday, the number of players permitted in each match will be increased from 10 to 12 – 10 full squad members and two additional players – to help spread the load of individuals.
The bonus point system will be suspended for the 2020 season, while the introduction of extra-time will be postponed, Super Netball announced following consultation with medical experts, high performance managers, players and clubs.
The removal of the bonus point is expected to reduce the incentive to keep certain players on the court longer in pursuit of winning a quarter, while the decision on extra-time was made in line with advice on player load, potential injury and the likely impact of those periods on athletes who have had reduced or interrupted pre-seasons.
Super Netball CEO Chris Symington said the initiatives were designed to protect player health and welfare. “We made these changes because healthy athletes mean a healthy season where players are given enough rest to keep them at the top of their game,” he said.
Australian Netball Players’ Association chief Kathryn Harby-Williams said the decisions were important measures to protect both players and the sustainability of the condensed 2020 season.
“Front and centre right now is managing the wellbeing and physical load of our athletes given the unusual preseason they have had leading into this condensed season,” she said. “We appreciate the league considering the feedback from all stakeholders, including the players, to inform their decision making.”
The new season starts on Saturday when the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning meet in Brisbane. The second phase of fixtures to be played from week six is yet to be confirmed.