By Marcus Uhe
The junior netball landscape in the South East for season 2024 has been thrown a curve ball just weeks ahead of the first centre pass being thrown after a breakdown between the South East Premier Netball League (SEPNL) and Outer East Football Netball (OEFN).
After a joint statement announcing that the leagues would be joining forces in 2024 to provide a junior netball competition made up of both SEPNL and OEFN clubs on 16 January, OEFN announced on Monday 5 February that it had decided to not partner with SEPNL for 2024, sighting issues with SEPNL’s governance structure and a lack of affiliation with Netball Victoria.
“Following numerous meetings with internal and external stakeholders Outer East Football Netball are not satisfied that the governance structure in place and as proposed by the SEPNL group is workable, nor do we feel comfortable with the current state of the intended incorporation, particularly SEPNL Office Bearers also holding official roles within participating clubs,” the OEFN’s statement said.
“Added to the fact that there is nine weeks to the start of the season and the SEPNL group is no further advanced with their affiliation with Netball Victoria, we have come to the decision to not partner with the SEPNL group for the 2024 season in the junior netball space.”
Lani Mannays, president of the SEPNL, is also President of Berwick Netball Club, while vice president of SEPNL, Dean Ziesler, is the current president of Beaconsfield Netball Club.
SEPNL is aligned with Netball Victoria but is not affiliated.
OEFN said it would remain open to working with Netball Victoria and SEPNL to establish a competition from 2025 onwards, and stressed that the upcoming junior season would not be compromised by the decision to not partner with SEPNL.
“(OEFN) will continue to pursue a junior netball competition for clubs in the South East as we stated following our Competition Structure Review in August 2023.
“This decision does not have any impact on Outer East FN’s A, B, C, D and 17U Blue netball competitions in any way, as they follow the Senior Football fixtures released at the beginning of December 2023.”
Mannays said she fears that clubs will lose faith in the SEPNL based on the OEFN’s statement, stating that the League’s governance is above board and has followed legal requirements.
Through the implementation of an underlying committee with representation from all six SEPNL clubs, Mannays is confident that any fears of conflicts of interest involving League and Club officials has been alleviated.
“The only thing that they are questioning is who runs it, but we have been completely transparent about it from the beginning,” Mannays said.
“We can’t step away from Berwick and Beaconsfield at the moment, because we were voted as presidents at the AGM before this started.
“I think if we were trying to hide, that would be a different story, but we haven’t from day one, and if we weren’t mitigating it by giving all of these clubs a voice, that would also be another issue.”
Mannays said SEPNL will still aim to run a junior netball competition this season to ensure that junior netballers have a place to play in the South East without the travel associated with OEFN clubs.
“We just want the kids to play; ultimately we will do whatever we have to do to make it happen,” she said.
“We’ve got our teams picked, our selections, Berwick and Beaconsfield are really strong clubs, we’ve got all of our teams filled.
“We’ve got the community backing us so we’ve got to do what we can for them as well.”