Brisbane Lions AFLW captain Bre Koenen will run on to Richmond’s home ground on Saturday undefeated but with the knowledge she and her teammates will receive a 94 per cent pay rise next season.
In comparison, Koenen’s sister Cara – fresh from winning gold with the Australian Diamonds in Birmingham – is still waiting for Netball Australia to finalise its State of the Game review in the wake of its multi million-dollar debt.
Both codes are looking to create an environment that supports full-time professionalism and fighting for the same gene pool.
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The situation is not lost on Netball CEO Kelly Ryan, who has warned the rapid growth in other codes means the playing stocks for netball are under threat.
The Koenen household is a case in point.
Cara, who had a blinder in the gold medal match shooting 15/15 and providing Gretel Bueta with seven goal assists and eight circle feeds, said: “The glut of women’s sport has never been greater – and female athletes have never had so many options.”
“Netball is competing for talent. As a family, we are split down the middle by sport. My sister is captain of the Brisbane Lions and while it’s an awesome landscape for young girls to have so many options, it has also put netball on notice.
“The Players’ Association, Netball Australia and Suncorp Super Netball clubs are all working together to build viewership and to get bums on seats at home games.
“Fox and Kayo have done their bit by agreeing to show all our games – which is a great position to be in for visibility – but we also know that this cross-code competition has put us all on notice to get better conditions and environments for our athletes otherwise they won’t stay in our game.
“We will lose them.
“With sports working towards being professional, it will come down to what we are paid.
“The AFLW saw a 94 per cent increase in salaries which is amazing – but we can’t afford to fall behind.
“We need to be a professional full-time league so our players don’t have to split time between work or study. It’s a complicated issue because this juggle also means that netball athletes are well rounded.
“But at the end of the day, we want to be professional.”
Netball has always been popular but AFLW and NRLW have momentum, the WBBL is well established and women’s soccer has the jewel of their game, the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia next year.
This means netball, even without factoring in its financial crisis, is under threat.
If netball wants to sit at the big table of Australian sport’s movers and shakers, it needs to keep attracting the best talent to, in turn, push bigger attendance and sponsorship dollars.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLaughlin called the new pay rise “life changing” for AFLW players.
He said the deal was “a giant step forward in achieving our vision of ensuring AFLW players are the best paid female athletes in any local professional competition by 2030”.
It’s not a title Netball Australia will want to lose.
After signing the 2021 broadcast deal with Foxtel Group, Ryan said netball’s landmark deal ensured SSN players were the highest-paid female domestic athletes in the world.
The AFL is seeking to be professional by 2026; it remains to be seen netball‘s public ambition in this space.
As part of Kayo's commitment to women's sport, a record number of broadcast hours for women's sport will be shown in September through to October.