SA netball in crisis after resignations

Netball has been plunged into crisis following the resignation of two members of Netball South Africa’s (NSA) national executive and the national coach. All three resignations are with immediate effect.

The resignations followed a meeting of the national council at which all 34 netball regions were represented, and during which the coach was criticised for the performance of the Spar national netball team on their recent tour of Fiji and New Zealand. The issue arose when the director of selectors, Cecilia Molokwane, who had been head of delegation on the tour, briefed the council on the tour.

The vice-president, Helene Botha, and the director of coaches, Bennie Saayman, resigned saying they thought it was unfair that issues relating to the coach, Marlene Wagner, had been raised in her absence without her being given an opportunity to put forward her side of the story.

Wagner submitted her written resignation to the president, Mimi Mthethwa, overnight.

“She did not give me any reason for her resignation. She just stated that she was resigning with immediate effect,” said Mthethwa. “I have tried to contact her to discuss the situation, but her cellphone was switched off.

“I called a meeting of the executive, and asked the two executive members to officially supply us with reasons for the resignation. They said they thought it was unfair to the coach because she wasn’t there, and because the report had not been discussed at executive level.”

One of the issues raised in the report was that Wagner had not adhered to the five-two ratio in the last quarter of the first Test in Fiji. All senior netball teams have to comply with the five-two ratio at all times, whether five black players and two white players or five white and two black. At under-19 level, the ratio is four-three.

“In the last quarter of the first match, she played a six-one ratio,” said Mthethwa. “The five-two ratio is cast in stone. Teams playing in the interprovincial tournament currently under way are docked points if they do not field a five-two ratio at all times. For instance, Zululand, with an all-black team, have points docked because they do not have any white players.”

Mthethwa said there had long been concern about the performance of the national team. “They did not do well at the Commonwealth Games, and they only won one match on the tour of Fiji and New Zealand—and Fiji are ranked below us.

“We tried to give Marlene the support she said we needed. For instance, we appointed a sports scientist to assist the team, but many of the things that have been worrying us for some time have not improved.”

She said she will be reporting to the minister of sport, and the national executive of NSA will meet soon to discuss the appointment of a new coach. The national executive has the authority to co-opt members on to the executive, and this will be done as soon as possible.

Molokwane revealed that she had been given a letter of complaint about the coach, signed by 11 members of the team, on the flight back from New Zealand. The 12th member of the team, Liezel Wium, was not on the flight, having stayed on in New Zealand. She declined to give details of the complaint, saying it had not been discussed with the executive.

None of the three people who resigned was available for comment.—Sapa

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