Collingwood has admitted its failure to run a viable netball program as the club announced it will wind up the Magpies operation at the end of the 2023 Super Netball season.
With four rounds remaining this year and following an internal club review, the club confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it would not seek to renew its licence for the 2024 season and would not return to the sport.
Collingwood pointed the finger at Netball Australia, saying financial challenges experienced by the governing body were in part behind the decision to withdraw, while a “disappointed” governing body claimed shifting priorities away from netball to focus on the club’s core business of football was to blame.
The review, which analysed key aspects of the club’s program and that of Netball Australia, found the netball arm of the AFL club was no longer sustainable.
Collingwood’s chief executive, Craig Kelly, said the decision to fold the operation had been “incredibly difficult” and had “weighed heavily on us”.
“We acknowledge we could have run a better netball program at Collingwood,” Kelly said. “Throughout this process, we met with Netball Australia and SSN on multiple occasions to explore potential solutions.
“The challenges Netball Australia has experienced and continues to experience in terms of profitability combined with the current impasse in regard to finalising the TPA [team participation agreement] and CPA [collective player agreement], played a key role in our decision-making.”
Netball Australia last week posted a financial turnaround of $4.7m in 2022, helping to ease fears over its future viability after the previous year’s results sparked an existential crisis for the sport.
Negotiations are under way with interested parties for an eighth team licence to replace Collingwood for the 2024-2026 seasons.
“While we are disappointed by Collingwood’s decision, we thank them for their participation in the Suncorp Super Netball competition,” Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan said.
“In recent times it had become clear that Collingwood’s priorities had shifted away from netball to focus on its core business of football.”
Despite expectations of success when they entered the competition in 2017, the Magpies have made the finals just three times, and have never gone beyond the first week of the post-season.
Nicole Richardson’s team currently sit second-bottom of the Super Netball ladder and have no chance of reaching the finals again, leaving players with just a handful more games before they will be forced to look for alternative employment.
The club acknowledged the timing of the announcement was not ideal, but said it would support its athletes and staff in the period of transition over the coming months.
Kelly said Collingwood was a better place for having had a netball team and paid tribute to Magpies players and staff.
“To our team, I want to thank each netballer and the wider program led by our brilliant head coach Nicole Richardson and outstanding captains Geva Mentor and Ash Brazill for their contribution, loyalty and commitment to our club,” he said.
“Each netballer who has come through the doors has made our club better. The energy of our netballers, dedication to their craft and love of the game has been a key part of why this decision has been an incredibly difficult one to make.”
He added that decision to pull the pin on netball operations would not impact any other sporting aspect of the club.
“To be clear, while we are exiting netball, Collingwood remains absolutely committed to growing, investing in and developing women athletes through our AFLW and VFLW programs,” he said.
Under the conditions of Netball Australia’s current broadcast agreement, eight teams must contest the competition.
Netball Victoria said it was already working to ensure the state retain its quota of two teams, with the search under way for a team to join Melbourne Vixens.
“We firmly believe Victoria has the talent and the fanbase to sustain two teams at the elite level and we are working closely with Netball Australia and the Victorian government on the best way forward,” said Netball Victoria CEO Andrea Pearman.