Maria Tutaia's ability to shoot the long shot is one of the reasons Netball Australia want to bring in the two-point shot. Netball Australia is strongly considering introducing the two-point shot in some form to its new domestic league next year. But such a dramatic shift is not likely to be adopted by New Zealand or the international game.
As the trans-Tasman competition nears its final stages, behind the scenes the two national bodies are mapping out separate leagues for next year. Netball Australia have begun a fan-engagement project and the topic causing most debate is whether a long-range two-point shot would improve the spectacle. Australia has signed a breakthrough broadcast deal and are intent on attracting as many new fans as possible, with the two-point shot seen as one way to generate added attention in a competitive sporting market. "We'd like to look at a way of introducing change – and it's not for change sake. It's about what will improve the entertainment product," Netball Australia chief executive Kate Palmer said.
"It may come into the competition next year; it may come into our preseason. We need a system to review the types of rules we might look at and we need to feed into the international federation about potential changes. "The rationale – and it's still on the drawing table – is the two-point shot may reduce the reliance on the tall shooter. It creates an excitement at certain times of the game when you have more points and it brings back the classic long shot, a nice part of the game a number of years ago. People love the long shot. "Watching Maria Tutaia play the game you just marvel at her ability and we've got a couple in Australia now, too, and we want them to come back into the game.
"It's not a given. We're still looking at that and the way substitutions work and time-outs – a range of things." The complicating factor is the international federation instigated a series of minor tweaks – aimed at making the game "less fussy" – in January. Any further adjustments aren't likely for at least another four, possibly eight, years. "We have to be mindful that our players and umpires have to participate on the international stage," Palmer admitted.
"We've got to be careful about the impact of any rule change on their ability to play internationally." Unlike Netball New Zealand, who were evasive when approached about the potential of the two-point shot, Australia are happy to spark a standoff between traditionalists and those keen to push innovation. Veteran Australian shooter Natalie Medhurst was one player to publicly criticise the two-point shot, which was trialled during this year's preseason tournaments and featured in Fast5, netball's abbreviated version.
"It's brought out very polarising views about the two-point shot," Palmer said. "The feedback we've received is very extreme on both ends from fans and also people within our game. There are people who absolutely believe it will make a massive difference, and people at the other end who think it will destroy the game."
Netball New Zealand head of events and international Kate Agnew danced around the topic, only saying a range of options were being considered here. But New Zealand's new domestic league appears unlikely to plump for major change. "One of the things I've learnt over the years when we look at anything to do with rules is the unintended consequences," Agnew said. "Sometimes what you think is a relatively straightforward change actually ricochets in other areas. You need to make sure you've considered these things."
Both NNZ and NA also remain confident of staging some form of cross-over matches next year.