Netball Upper Clutha is celebrating a boost in numbers as it wraps up another successful season.

More than 500 netballers played in the region’s tournament this season, including three teams from Cromwell and at least one player who travelled from Makarora.

There were 36 teams across each grade from year 7-8, up to senior. That was two more than last year.

In the lower grades – years 1-6 – there were 174 players, which was about a dozen more than last year.

Those numbers have been steadily increasing since at least 2016, when there were about 150 players in the lower grades – years 1-6.

Netball Upper Clutha president Tracey Gibson put some of that growth down to an expanding district.

The success of New Zealand’s Silver Ferns had also, likely, played a part, she said.

“When you have results like the Silver Ferns winning the world cup, it doesn’t do us any harm [either],” she said, of the possible reasons behind the sport’s popularity in recent times.

“The problem we have now is space.”

This season’s primary and senior games were played at the Wanaka Recreation Centre, while the intermediate grade teams were played at Mount Aspiring College.

She said those services had been invaluable to the sport.

However, growth in player numbers meant the sport was fast outgrowing the facilities available.

“We’re experiencing steady growth, which is exciting,” she said.

Ultimately, the goal was to eventually have the sport across all grades within Upper Clutha played in one location.

“It would be absolutely fantastic,” she said.

Having one location meant all grades could support each other and the community would be able to enjoy the sport as a whole.

“It’s not about us, it’s about our community. We are trying to create the competition for our community,” she said.

Netball Upper Clutha welcomes feedback anyone has to help improve the competitions “as best we can”, she said.

The group has already listened to some of the feedback provided in previous years, which has resulted in the creation of a social grade for adults and a collegiate grade this year.

That move meant there was more “definition” between grades in the latter rounds of the season.

“It created better competition between the teams,” Gibson said.


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