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Netball in political turmoil, after board chair dumped

on 2019年5月13日

Netball Australia is in political turmoil, with board chair Anne-Marie Corboy standing down after less than a year in the post and then ousted as a director at a special general meeting called by the member organisations last week.
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The annual general meeting will be held in Canberra on Friday, at which three board vacancies – including, now, Corboy’s – will be filled from among five candidates. Netball Queensland in particular, under president Jane Seawright, and Netball New South Wales are believed to be leading the push for more power to be returned to the state associations.

But others hold grave concerns about the potential loss of board independence and business acumen, fearing the decision-making process will be hijacked by more parochial interests. “Basically, the sport will go back 30 years,” said one senior figure.

It is believed the Australian Sports Commission is closely monitoring the situation from a governance standpoint, while the Australian Netball Players’ Association strongly condemned the decision to remove Corboy, who succeeded the long-serving Noeleen Dix last year.

“The players are really frustrated and annoyed that our sport can’t keep moving forward,” said ANPA director Bianca Chatfield after a teleconference on Tuesday involving representatives from the eight clubs. “The past players have fought for where we are and the current players just can’t believe that there’s a threat that we could go backwards.

“We need those independent directors to be able to move our sport forward and we all know that there’s a real threat from other sports at the moment. Netball has always led the way, and the players are just really frustrated that we have to get involved in this political drama all the time, from those that seem to be bitter and twisted about what’s happened.”

Unrest has festered since last year’s decision to launch a new eight-team Super Netball league in 2017 to replace the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship. The process was delayed while commercial agreements were finalised with the likes of major sponsor Suncorp and broadcast partners Channel Nine and Telstra.

Highly contentious, too, was the decision to grant the three new licences to football-aligned clubs Collingwood, Sunshine Coast Lightning (Melbourne Storm) and the Giants, owned by NNSW but aligned with GWS. Having raided the talent of the five existing teams, run by the member associations, all three new franchises are in the top four with six rounds remaining in the inaugural Super Netball season.

Former Australian captain Kathryn Harby-Williams, who has the strong backing of the players, and Cheryl McCormack, are the two current directors up for re-election, with Marcia Ella, Susan Comerford and Jan Magaccis the challengers.

Corboy, a highly-respected financial services executive, was unavailable for comment, but it is believed the member associations were critical of her communication skills and leadership style. Several attempts at mediation by Netball Australia were apparently rebuffed by the member organisations.

Netball Victoria said in a statement to Fairfax Media that it was “the strong desire” of the state bodies to work in the sport’s best interests, and that a collective view had been formed that it would be beneficial to change in the make-up of the Netball Australia board.

“Creating change such this is challenging when there are divergent views – naturally this has been difficult for all parties,” it said. “As a result of this view, Anne-Marie Corboy is no longer a member of the NA board.

“NA board members are voted on and off the board dependant on the skills needed to deliver on the strategic agenda for whole of sport. There are a number of high calibre candidates standing for election or re-election at the NA AGM, including current directors. We are committed to working collectively with Netball Australia to achieve our strategic agendas and look forward to working constructively together into the future.

“The whole of sport focus for the future, now that Suncorp Super Netball is established, is to ensure that we continue to grow, and the development within community netball.”

Netball Australia chief executive Marne Fechner praised Corboy’s contribution while defending the member associations’ right under the sport’s constitution to force last week’s special general meeting and remove the former chair from the board.

“From a governance point of view, from the members’ perspective, there was a need for change,” Fechner said. “These things can happen in sport; netball’s not the only sport it’s happened to. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve got to get on with the business at hand. My sense is that everyone’s committed to moving on from this.”


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