Australia's elite female athletes should not have to exist in financial insecurity

The Diamonds competed against New Zealand in the Constellation Cup despite ongoing CPA negotiations between Netball Australia and the Australian Netball Players' Association Joe Allison/Getty Images

Australia's elite netball players have been off contract since 30 September when the Super Netball Collective Player Agreement (CPA) expired. This means that all 80 players are without pay and international players are wondering what their future in the best domestic competition in the world looks like. In a cost of living crisis, which is impacting so many Australians, being unemployed is no doubt placing our netballers under unnecessary financial distress without any firm resolution in sight.

Even with all the discussions going on, the Australian Diamonds are currently competing against South Africa in a three-match series. Whilst the Diamonds CPA is separate to Super Netball's, it still places these players in a position of insecurity. Players have suggested that it has not had an impact, but I find that hard to believe.

Should a player get injured on tour, will this impact their ability to get a contract in the Super Netball next year?

Our female athletes should not have to exist in financial insecurity just to play the games they love.

The negotiations between Netball Australia and the Australian Netball Players' Association have gone on for months.

The key areas in dispute are the players push for a revenue-share model. This differs from the profit-share deal which has been put forward by Netball Australia and the Super Netball clubs. The ANPA asked for mediation. NA pushed back only to later concede that this may be the only way forward.

Without this CPA in place, netballers cannot sign contracts for the 2024 season meaning our players are unemployed and in a financially precarious position. It also hasn't stopped backroom conversations taking place. Whilst we know that some players won't be staying at their current clubs, it's still unclear where these players will be going.

Netball is not the only sport this year that has struggled to progress a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

While the NRL and the Rugby League Players' Association reached in principle agreement on the CBA, I still don't think it has been signed.

This was another heated and tense negotiation which resulted in the NRLW players playing for most of the season without the protection of a CBA and, in solidarity with their male counterparts, enforcing a media blackout for the opening weeks of the competition on match days. This inability to speak to the media had a significant impact on a competition which is still growing, and which needs all the publicity it can get.

The players competing in the AFLW were in a similar position and were without a CBA when their pre-season started. The CBA was finally agreed in September with the average AFLW player salary increasing from AUS$46,000 to AUS$82,000 by the end of the agreement.

Then there are the Australian Wallaroos who are in another situation entirely. After speaking out as a collective just over a month ago about the lack of support received from Rugby Australia for their program, the players had the opportunity to meet with CEO Phil Waugh.

The story of these women has largely been forgotten, engulfed in the egos of Hamish McLennan and Eddie Jones.

What distinguishes netball from other sports that have had similar challenges this year though, is that at the elite level, netball is a sport for women.

Our netballers do not have male athletes to stand in solidarity with them and netball does not have the benefit of a wealthy governing body to be able to make the same strides in player conditions as other sports.

The challenges associated with NA's financial challenges have been well documented this year and there isn't a back-up plan.

Code wars are the ultimate click generator in the Australian sporting media. Between Hamish McLennan and Peter V'Landys trading blows about player movement to the constant push and shove between the AFL and the NRL, it can get tiresome.

But in my view, code wars is a unique feature of male sport. What we see in women's sport is athletes constantly supporting and encouraging each other and lifting each other up. We've seen this generosity of spirit extend to our netballers with Australia's cricketers creating a 'fighting fund' to assist the elite netball players.

The intention is for this fund to be there to help netballers during this period of unemployment. It has been supported by both the men's and women's elite players.

This is unprecedented. There has been an offer of financial support from one group of players to another.

Whilst the focus absolutely must be on finalising the CPA my view is that the challenges for netball will only continue.

My main concern going forward is the clearly untenable relationship between Netball Australia and the Player's Association. Just last week, the Players Association and Netball Australia both made comments in the lead-up to the Constellation Cup, none particularly complementary about the other.

In a negotiation process, my view is that it is never just one party's fault. Both parties have a role in how the negotiation process progresses and both Netball Australia and the ANPA must acknowledge their role in where we are now.

Without a strong relationship between these two bodies, netball cannot expect to move forward and of course, it will be the players that continue to suffer the consequences.

And additionally, if there cannot be agreement in Australian netball, home to one of the strongest netball competitions in the world, what sort of precedent does this set for netballers in other countries fighting for better conditions from their governing bodies.