Netball Queensland is launching its new state-wide competition the HART Sapphire Series with a pre-season tournament this weekend 25-26 May.
The Sapphire Series is Netball Queensland’s semi-professional local platform for players, coaches and umpires to step up to the national stage.
It’s alignment with universities across the state, aims to create a tribal sport entertainment product not unlike college football in the US.
Netball Queensland’s General Manager High Performance and Sport Entertainment Richard McInnes said the series was created to highlight and nurture Queensland’s local talent.
“The story for us is about being a proud Queenslander and the journey from being a Sapphire to being a part of Australia’s world dominating netball team, the Diamonds,” Mr McInnes said.
“Our Sapphire Series will put 70 of Queensland’s best netballers on display at a local level, creating local community heroes for aspiring players in the State’s regions and providing the opportunity to connect with them.
“As well as putting Queensland’s best netballers on display locally, the league will be giving international and domestic coaches and managers the opportunity to scout local talent from afar,” he said.
Played out in the new home of netball the Queensland State Netball Centre, each game is set to be live-streamed worldwide.
Former Firebird and Carina Leagues Club Tigers team member Katie Walker said the competition is a fantastic opportunity to showcase Queensland’s strongest players.
“The Sapphire Series will feature the best local talent across the state and as a result of coming up against tough competition week in week out, this will raise the level for both our individual players and teams across the board,” Ms Walker said.
“It also makes professional women’s sport accessible to players in rural and regional Queensland and I think this is extremely important. With the Ipswich Jets and the Townsville Northern Rays now joining the league, it means you don’t have to be metropolitan in order to benefit”.
Netball Queensland announced earlier this year the most valuable player award will be named after Ms Walker – the HART Sapphire Series Katie Walker Sapphire.
“The award in itself is a great introduction to the competition but to have my name to it is such an honour,” she said.
“Netball is about mateship, playing hard and playing fair and an MVP allows not just themselves, but their teammates to be as good as they possibly can be.”
Seven Clubs have secured Sapphire Series Licenses for the Inaugural HART Sapphire Series including Brisbane North Cougars, Ipswich Jets, USC Thunder, Northern Rays, QUT Wildcats, Carina Leagues Club Tigers, and Bond University Bull Sharks.