Trans-Tasman netball league strugglers Central Pulse today received a boost after competition general manager Anthony Everard announced concessions aimed at supporting teams in the lower half of the competition.
Although the Pulse recorded their first ever win of the ANZ Championship this year - a 53-52 win over NSW Swifts in the penultimate round - they still finished bottom of the table.
Everard said it was important to avoid a situation where the same teams consistently finished at the top, or bottom, of the ladder.
The measures announced today were aimed at improving the on-court performances of teams at the lower end of the ladder - specifically any team finishing ninth or 10th for consecutive seasons.
The Pulse are the only team in the competition who qualify to apply for concessions in the 2010 season.
Among the measures announced are the right to contract two non-eligible players, and the right to apply for an $NZ25,000 grant from the Trans-Tasman Netball League. The grant can be used at the franchise's discretion, but it would need to demonstrate that any expenditure would contribute towards a tangible impact on court.
Examples of some ways the grant could be used were:
.. as an additional payment to secure playing talent (over and above the salary cap)
.. for off-court support to players, including employment of career and welfare staff, additional coaching expertise, access to training facilities
.. for assistance towards the cost of travelling team support staff with the playing squad for away matches;
.. for pre-season initiatives such as contribution towards costs to attend pre-season tournaments.
Everard said the focus of the concessions was on helping teams in the lower half of the competition to improve their performance, rather than penalising the top teams and consequently diluting excellence at the top of ladder.
The measures announced on Tuesday would help the league maintain competitiveness in 2010 and beyond, he added.
Four different teams had contested the league's grand finals over the past two years, and eight of the 10 teams finished in different ladder positions this year compared to the competition's inaugural season in 2008.
At the conclusion of the league's 14-round home-and-away series, Australian teams were placed first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth, with New Zealand teams filling the gaps.
"This kind of natural movement among the teams demonstrates that we have an extremely dynamic and vibrant competition that is evolving in a very robust way," Everard said.
Despite calls for changes to the eligibility rule, the existing guideline will remain in place for the 2010 season.
Everard said the rule had fulfilled its purpose of protecting the pathway to New Zealand and Australian representation, while still providing opportunities for overseas players to compete in the league and add to its appeal.
"We're satisfied that there were no variations put forward as part of this review that were capable of significantly improving the existing rule in a way that was acceptable to all parties," he said.