SUPER Netball's stars face a 10-month wait before they return to action next year with the league's fixtures to be pushed back for the Commonwealth Games.
Following the Sunshine Coast Lightning's emphatic win in the inaugural Super Netball Grand Final on Saturday night, Netball Australia has confirmed the 2018 competition will start in late April - after the Games on the Gold Coast.
This year's debut season of the new national competition started in mid-February, but with the Commonwealth Games to be held from April 4-15 next year, a significant clash and drain on talent loomed if the dates were not shifted.
Netball Australia had weighed up scheduling a three-week break for the Commonwealth Games mid-season, alongside a later start to the season.
But the importance of the build-up to the Commonwealth Games - and the chance to leverage the league off the event - won out with the competition's first round to start on either April 21-22 or April 28-29. Match timeslots and finals dates for next season are still to be confirmed.
NA chief executive Marne Fechner said ensuring the full talent pool was available for the second season had been a key in the decision and believed the league would also benefit from a return to a more traditional window.
"We have an opportunity to platform the league on the back of one of our peak events and netball only has two and that's Comm Games and World Cup and to have one on our home shores is a great advantage for us,” Fechner said.
"April is late and we will be up against AFL and NRL again in terms of that window, but there's no thought for us to move to a summer timeslot ... at some point in time we will be competing with some of the codes to share a voice and eyeballs.
"We know that the playing membership is a captive target audience that we haven't fully engaged as a sport, so being able to make sure season two of the league is sitting in that (traditional window) is important.”
The fixturing move means the only chance Diamonds' players will now have to push their case for selection in the final Commonwealth Games team is in upcoming internationals - the Quad Series in August and January and October's Constellation Cup - and training camps.
The Diamonds squad for 2017-18 will be named on June 27.
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said the later start to the season was a more preferable option for her team's preparation.
"They'll have relatively clean air, they will still be with their Super Netball clubs in pre-season, but I think it just takes the pressure off everyone a little bit off in terms of that real hard match-play,” she said.
"There could have been some discussions around players' loads - it would have been tricky.
"This is probably a much more ideal situation and it's probably what our key competitors would have had, I assume New Zealand won't (start their domestic season) until after.
"It just means we get that much more specific preparation leading into Comm Games rather than the added burden of the domestic season as well.”
Australia scored an 18-goal win over the Silver Ferns to claim its first Commonwealth Games gold in 12 years in Glasgow and expectations, like they were for the 2015 netball World Cup in Sydney, will be high on home shores.
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