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NNZ celebrates world first with 100th milestone

Celebrating a special day in its history, Netball New Zealand (NNZ) has become the first national netball body in the world to reach the 100-year milestone.


On May 21, 1924, a group of pioneering women voted to create the New Zealand Basket Ball Association (NZBBA - changed to NZBA in 1927) and elected their office holders.

These hardy and forthright women epitomised the work ethic of the female volunteer workforce through the challenging years of the Great Depression and World War II. They were fuelled with a fervent belief that team sport - and outdoor basketball in particular - had the capacity to enrich the recreational and social lives of young women and enhance their physical and mental wellbeing during a period of rapid social change. 

A natural organiser with an already proven leadership track record, Irene McInnes became the national body’s first President.

“To become the first country in the world to celebrate 100 years of netball is an amazing achievement and marks a very special day for us,” NNZ chief executive Jennie Wyllie said.

“For the past 100 years, netball has led the way for women's sport in New Zealand. We look back with immense pride on the past to see how we have evolved and put that knowledge to good use in building for the future.”

The creation of the NZBBA in 1924 became the first national association for outdoor basketball/netball to be formed internationally. It was also the only sports body in New Zealand at that time to be run exclusively by women, although men made a strong contribution to the sport from the early days, particularly as game day officials and umpires.

By 1924 netball was being played on grass fields and asphalt courts throughout the country by women and schoolgirls in gym frocks and black stockings, steadily evolving into a showpiece of athletic and skilful excellence.

Coming into step with the rest of the world and changing to the seven-a-side version of the game in 1959 was the catalyst for huge growth in the game. A new breed of radical netball administrators and the political climate of the time subsequently pushed the sport into the mainstream.

In 1970, New Zealand became the last country to adopt the name ‘netball’ which until that time was still referred to as ‘women’s basketball’ but NNZ has led the way on many other fronts in propelling the game forward.

From its stuttering beginnings at international level, netball quickly became the face of women’s sport in New Zealand, its evolution continuing to push the sport and its people to new frontiers. Across the eras, key outcomes have produced new norms for the empowerment of women and girls around the world.

For over 25 years, elite level netball in New Zealand has continued to push new boundaries in the way the game is played and how it is viewed, while maintaining its status as a part and parcel of the country’s sporting fabric.

Legendary Silver Ferns goal shoot Irene van Dyk, NNZ’s centenary ambassador, who was part of netball’s rising profile and march into a new and immensely rewarding time for the sport, feels blessed to have been a part of it all.

“Netball has been fantastic to me,” she said.

“It opened pathways for me from a young age and allowed me the opportunity for an amazing career.

“Netball has enriched my life and I have made many lifelong friends along the way. I pay tribute to all those who came before and allowed for that to happen.”

From amateur domestic competitions which produce our Silver Ferns, the introduction of a new-look semi-profession era in 2008 with the launch of the ANZ Championship marked a defining cross-road for netball and one which produced an immeasurable amount of good for the sport.

Providing the platform to broaden netball’s appeal as viewing audiences continued to grow, it proved a viable commercial entity while establishing its own niche as a top-quality sporting spectacle.

Introducing its own standalone elite level league, the ANZ Premiership in 2017, NNZ has continued to forge new grounds for the sport. Further change is on the horizon, ensuring netball retains its strong foothold as an integral piece of the New Zealand landscape for the next 100 years.

 

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