NEW ERA:  Verity Charles (left) is encouraged by the introduction of the Suncorp Super Netball Competition.
NEW ERA: Verity Charles (left) is encouraged by the introduction of the Suncorp Super Netball Competition. Graham Denholm

Charles heralds super netball a leap in women's sport

NETBALL: With a franchising model introduced to the national netball competition this year, former Grafton junior Verity Charles believes it is a further step in the right direction for women in sport.

The rise of the Suncorp Super Netball competition has been heralded as a new era for the sport with players seen as contracted athletes for the first time.

The competition developed a contract pool of $5.4 million divided across the eight clubs, seeing the average player contract worth $67,500 each year.

While sport in Australia still has a way to go to bridge the gap between male and female athletes, Charles said the creation of netball athlete contracts was just the beginning.

"This is a massive opportunity for Australian netballers,” she said. "Girls can get on the court, be on a team and get paid for their profession. No longer is it just a case of representative sport. It is a living.

"To also have our games live broadcast on free to air TV is also a major step forward for the sport. I just hope Channel 9 really do a good job this season.”

Charles said netball was following a long list of sports in Australia that have pushed females to the forefront of the code including football with the W-League, cricket with the WBBL and now AFL with the AFL Women's league.

"It is amazing to see how far we have progress and it is about time too,” she said.

"I am loving seeing all these young girls that are coming through the ranks and they all play a sport that they love and can now aspire to reach new heights in.”

Charles said while she was growing up in the Clarence Valley with the size of the Grafton Netball Association and her family's presence at the Bacon Street courts there was no chance of missing the sport.

But for girls in other centres that is not the case, and this is where Charles hopes the increased exposure of the Super Netball season will inspire the next generation.

"I think I was just born into the sport, I had no choice but to play. All my family played it and my nan was my first ever coach,” she said. "I hope with the success of this, the sport will grow across the country.

"I hope to inspire all of the young girls, to enhance their chance of getting involved.”

After two losses to start the season Charles' West Coast Fever outfit were aiming up against fellow winless side and former home city Queensland Firebirds last night.