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Wilson blasts netball double-headers

Published: 6:18PM Thursday June 03, 2010 Source: AAP

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Australian netball great Vicki Wilson has panned the decision to introduce double-headers into a condensed 2011 trans-Tasman competition.

Wilson labelled back-to-back matches as "the biggest mistake" ANZ Championship officials could make as it exposed players to a greater risk of injury.

With next year's world championships starting in July in Singapore, the 10-team league will begin five weeks earlier than usual in mid-February.

With three "double rounds" scheduled - where seven or eight matches will be played over a weekend rather than four or five - the competition will be played over 15 weeks rather than 17.

But it will retain its controversial uneven format, which disadvantages the stronger Australian sides, as teams play domestic rivals twice but trans-Tasman opponents just once.

Wilson questioned the sense in squeezing in double rounds, warning it would undermine all the progress made by the growing trans-Tasman league.

"I think the double-headers are the biggest mistake the sport will make," the former Australian World Cup-winning captain says.

"They are a backward step.

"Name a competition which has run double-headers here that has been successful - there isn't one.

"We need to learn the lesson from basketball ... double-headers aren't appealing to the media and not appealing to spectators and is very draining to players as well.

"The risk of more injuries has got to be a concern particularly given the number of serious injuries players have sustained this year."

The full draw will be announced in September but indications are each team will have to back-up twice during the 2011 season for two matches in a round.

Bye rounds have been removed while Thursday night matches will be trialled during the double rounds.

The condensed schedule was finally agreed to this week following drawn-out talks with all teams and both national players' unions.

"After three successful seasons to date, it was important to ensure that the integrity of the ANZ Championship competition was maintained, and not deliver a watered-down version in 2011," general manager Anthony Everard said.

Wilson was also critical of the early starting date which leaves a six-week gap between the May 22-23 grand final and the world championships.

"For world championships, coaches want their players to be match fit and there's no better preparation than the ANZ Championship," said the former Australian skipper and shooter.

"National players don't need six weeks to prepare for a world championship.

"I think three weeks would have been fine."