Media mogul Craig Hutchison has won the race for a licence for Super Netball’s eighth team that will replace Collingwood in Australia’s premier netball league next season.
Netball Australia confirmed on Friday it had awarded the licence to Hutchison’s Sports Entertainment Network following a competitive tender process overseen by a subcommittee including consultants David Gallop and Colin Smith.
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In granting the licence, Netball Australia will operate the team throughout 2023, before fully transitioning to SEN in 2024.
The team will be based in Melbourne’s south east, with a name to be announced before next year’s season.
SEN already owns four basketball teams including NBL powerhouse the Perth Wildcats. Hutchison was previously was a co-owner of NBL team Melbourne United.
The new Super Netball team will be a cross-town rival to the Melbourne Vixens, and look to tap into a fan base overlapping with South East Melbourne Phoenix, which joined the NBL in 2018.
“We see an opportunity here to step up and ensure the Victorian netball community gets the second team it deserves,” Hutchison said.
“We believe firmly in the direction of the Netball Australia Board, its Chief Executive Kelly Ryan and the leadership team.
“The Suncorp Super Netball standard is the best in the world and inspires so many young Australians.
“It is an outstanding entertainment product and continues to grow on the back of a fantastic season.
“We can’t wait to play our role running the new team and supporting Netball Australia’s overall vision.”
Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan said: “As a successful club owner, national broadcaster and publisher, SEN has a proven track record in the sporting landscape of enhancing sporting coverage and connecting brands to fans. We are excited by Craig Hutchison’s vision and can’t wait to see the new side in action next year.
“We thank Netball Victoria for the support it has provided through this process and we look forward to working with all eight Suncorp Super Netball teams to make next season the biggest and best yet.”
The Magpies folded after seven seasons in a shock decision earlier this year when Collingwood axed its netball program.
Hutchison’s SEN beat out bids from regional Victoria, where it was thought a team in Bendigo or Geelong would be able to get a foothold in the community that Collingwood struggled to in Melbourne.
Respected former England international Tracey Neville is expected to be the new team’s coach.
Neville was a key assistant coach for the Adelaide Thunderbirds in their run to the Super Netball premiership — their first title in 10 years.
The announcement was welcomed by Super Netball’s TV broadcaster Fox Netball.
Foxtel Group Executive Director – Commercial, Sport Rebecca McCloy, said: “Brilliant news today that a new Victorian team is joining the Suncorp Super Netball competition on the back of a record-breaking season. This is an inflection point in Netball history in taking it to greater heights.”
“This year viewing on Foxtel and Kayo Sports was up 10 per cent on 2022, as we delivered our 3 million sports subscribers unparalleled access to players, coaches and behind-the-scenes action on game days and via our weekly magazine shows in addition to the live on-court action.
“We look forward to working with Netball Australia to continue to build on this success to bring more netball and more incredible athletes to Australians around the country.”