Manchester Thunder’s Sara Bayman says the opportunity to compete in the Olympics could lead to players being asked to join other sports and leave netball.
The 30-year-old England international spoke exclusively to MM on the issue ahead of the fourth annual Mike Greenwood Trophy this weekend.
Bayman was part of the England team which claimed bronze in this year’s World Cup held in Australia, and she says this success means it is a great time for netball to boost its profile.
“I think women’s sport as a whole is on the up,” she said.
“We need to drive the sport forward with good performances as an England team, but also using the Superleague.
“The Superleague has got international players from all over the world and I think netball is now in a position where we can push forward in terms of the media and the profile that we get.
“We need to make sure that people are watching netball live on TV and that they understand what a great sport it is.”
Speaking on the sport’s international profile, Bayman believes there are strong arguments for netball being included in the Olympics, but expressed fears of players being drawn into other sports.
“There are good reasons for netball being included in the Olympics, but this would take a number of years,” she said.
“The main thing that plays against netball at the minute is that it is only really recognised as a women’s sport.
“There is also an argument for it turning professional and either way it would be a massive boost for netball and for netballers.
“If you can make a living from the sport then obviously it becomes a valid option for a lot of young women, but likewise if you go to an Olympics then you attract a lot of athletes who could potentially get asked to other sports and leave netball.”
This weekend’s competition, named in honour of former Thunder head coach Mike Greenwood who passed away in 2011, sees the Thunder welcome Celtic Dragons, Loughborough Lightning, Team Bath, Team Northumbria and Yorkshire Jets for a pre-season encounter that Bayman says carries great importance for all teams involved.
“Everyone is excited to get the season going and it is nice to start off with something at home,” she said.
“The Mike Greenwood trophy obviously has a bit of extra meaning for us because we are remembering one of our own.
“This tournament has become an important fixture of pre-season and everyone looks at this tournament as one that teams want to win.
“It’s definitely going to be a good sign of where teams are at heading into next year.”
Manchester’s Bayman congratulated former Thunder coach Tracey Neville following her recent appointment as England head coach, and says this weekend is a great chance for players to impress her as she is set to attend the tournament.
“I think that after the World Cup, Tracey was always going to get the job,” said the Thunder star.
“It is fantastic for the north-west as to have a local coach coming through the ranks and then going on to be very successful is a great sign.
“I know that Tracey is going to be there tomorrow so it is an opportunity for England players to try and impress in the run up to our series against Australia.”
The Mike Greenwood Trophy takes place today at the Thunderdome in Gorton and tickets can be bought at https://www.ticketline.co.uk/order/tickets/13310279/mike-greenwood-trophy-wright-robinson-college-2015-11-28-11-00-00
Image courtesy of Emirates Arena via YouTube, with thanks.