Like most netball tragics, my initial reaction to the news Netball Australia would push for the sport's inclusion at the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games was identical to Kaylee McKeown sending a message home to her family during a post-gold medal-winning interview on live TV.
What a chance to virtually guarantee an Olympic medal - hopefully gold - while showcasing one of Australia's most popular team sports to a global audience.
But a closer reflection had me fearing netball's Olympics push could undermine the one key aspect that sets the sport apart and makes it so unique at every level: women.
Any plan to include the sport at the Olympics would almost certainly include an extensive push to accelerate men's netball at more elite levels.
"We would naturally assume [men's netball is] probably going to be a big part of the conversation - it's the way the Olympics has been progressing, to get that gender equity in all sports," Netball Australia's new chief executive Kelly Ryan said this week.
"They still do have sports that are more orientated to one gender versus the other at this point but our expectation is that by the time 2032 comes around that gender equity piece will be a really strong part of the conversation."
This is a road the sport must be incredibly careful if it chooses to walk down it.
Netball is one of, if not the only sport on the planet, where women are the superstars in their own right.
We've all seen the online comments (spoiler alert: never read the comments). Did you see that Sam Kerr goal? Not as good as Tim Cahill at the 2014 World Cup. How good was that Hannah Southwell bone-rattler? Mate, Victor Radley. Ellyse Perry just scored a century and took 5-20. Yeah but who couldn't with the ropes in that far?
You get the drift.
Arguably the greatest asset netball has is its players and fans don't ever have to wade through this rubbish.
Did you see that Courtney Bruce intercept? How did Ash Brazill spot that pass? Will Sam Wallace ever miss a shot?
Because you know they'll be coming if men's netball is given a massive leg-up in the build-up to a home debut at the Olympics.
The NSW Swifts, vying to win their second Super Netball title in three years as the 2021 finals series begins on Saturday, took on the NSW men's netball side as part of their pre-season preparation earlier this year. They lost 62-45.
While it's still unclear what shape future men's netball pathways would take, any movement towards its professionalisation has an inherent risk of undercutting the small slice of the Australian sporting pie elite netballers have worked so hard for decades to achieve.
Liz Ellis, one of the greatest netballers of all time, earned $6000 a season from her club contract with the Swifts at the peak of her career. While working full-time as a lawyer. Her club-provided sports strapping tape was rationed each season. The Australian captain. It's pretty unfathomable, isn't it? Most professional footy clubs these days have medical facilities better than rural hospitals across the country.
Super Netball's 'pie slice' is already relatively small in sporting terms, with a salary cap of about $750,000 a season per club. About 40 NRL players would earn at least that amount on their own.
If the promotion of men's netball brings a faster, more physical version of the game to a wider audience, will the sport's elite women's players become second-class citizens in terms of pay, sponsorship and viewership?
I'd like to think not. But is it a risk worth taking given the unique women-only position netball currently occupies on a global professional sport landscape?
Under the Olympic charter, sports hoping for inclusion must be played widely by men in at least 75 countries across four continents and by women in at least 40 countries across three continents.
Netball obviously qualifies in the latter category but it would take a bit of work to get there in men's netball.
There were a few single-sport exceptions at the Tokyo Olympics. We didn't see any face-painted blokes going for a splish splash in unison. Or women playing baseball (don't even start me on the sham men's baseball tournament featuring the USA's 10th-string side). There's a few others, too.
Does netball even need the Olympic Games? While the exposure would be undoubtedly fantastic, you could just about guarantee when the host city rotation rolls back around to the US, China, Russia or a non-Commonwealth country it'd be among the first sports they'd try to bin off.
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Netball is lucky in that its four-yearly World Cups also come with a mid-term vote via the Commonwealth Games, where netball is the only sport that has any relevance given the arbitrarily selected countries just so happen to reflect the superpowers of the sport. Does netball really need what would effectively be three world championships in the span of four years? It pretty significantly devalues the importance and joy of actually winning one when you know the prestige it brings could last less than 12 months depending on when the tournaments are staged.
I have nothing against men's or boys' netball or those who play it. Anyone who has played netball at a social level will tell you how fun it is.
I've got no doubt the men and boys who represent their state or country love the game just as much as the women and would love to play it at a professional level.
But isn't this a fate experienced by every. Female. Athlete. Ever?
I know I'm being sexist in essentially putting up a "no entry" sign for men here. But see above. It's hard to have a lot of sympathy.
The introduction of AFLW and NRLW in recent years has been an incredible boost for women's athletes in both codes. But both codes also have the luxury of running the women's competitions at a loss courtesy of billion-dollar TV deals.
Netball doesn't have anything close to that luxury.
If netball can execute an Olympic Games push without a professional men's element, it's an avenue the game must consider.
Blokes have already done a pretty good job of stuffing the world up. Please, can netball just be left alone?
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