CANBERRA, July 7 (Xinhua) -- The new Australian netball league will target the best talent in the African and Asian regions, following the announcement on Thursday that there would be no restrictions on import players.
The new national netball league, which will be telecast on free-to-air TV and commence in February 2017, is set to feature some of the world's best netballers as Netball Australia revamps its import rules.
There will now be no restrictions on the number of international players a team can contract.
Chief Executive of Netball Australia, Kate Palmer, said the league would open its doors to the best international netball talent to help grow the competition.
"If we want to be the best competition in the world, we need to look further afield, and welcome the world's best athletes to our competition," Palmer said in a Netball Australia media release on Thursday.
"We'd love to have athletes from all regions of the world participate. We're certainly looking closely at Africa and Asia, as we saw some remarkable talent from those countries during last year's Netball World Cup".
The new format will replace the current ANZ Championship, a trans-Tasman competition played across Australia and New Zealand, and allows for one import player per team.
It will feature eight teams, including the current five Australian teams the Adelaide Thunderbirds, Melbourne Vixens, Queensland Firebirds, NSW Swifts and the West Coast Fever as well as welcome three new franchises into the competition.
In a breakthrough for the code in Australia, two matches will be telecast live, back-to-back, on free-to-air network Channel Nine as it endeavors to become a mainstream sport.
Despite an easing of the import restrictions, Palmer believes Australian players will still fill the majority of team rosters.
"The reality is that a high proportion of the world's best players are Australian, and we expect that the majority of players in the new league will continue to come from our pathway," she said on Thursday. "We're ranked number one in the world and we have the greatest player depth of any other country.
However, the innovative rule change hasn't been met with open arms by the other international netball organizations.
Palmer said Netball New Zealand and England Netball had already written to Netball Australia with their intentions to block athletes from playing in the new league.
Netball Australia is currently working with the existing and new teams, together with the Australian Netball Players Association, to finalize arrangements for the new league.
It is expected that all eight team licenses will be locked in by the end of the July.