Sticks and Stones

by Paul Thomas / 18 April, 2013
Transtasman netball’s outbreak of name-calling has echoes of the school playground.
Netball’s recent snarlfest was an exception that proves the rule: in terms of media coverage, women’s sport is too nice for its own good.

Irene van Dyk, left, and Laura Geitz: assassin vs battering ram. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images


The rough play controversy that convulsed the transtasman league might have discomforted administrators who live in fear of their sport being brought into disrepute, whatever that means in real life, but would have delighted those more concerned with profile, revenue and bums on seats. It put netball on the back page, jostling for prime position with the latest outbreak of hostilities in the cricketing conflict that’s beginning to look like a civil war.

It started with Central Pulse coach Robyn Broughton complaining about the battering Donna Wilkins got from Queensland Firebirds’ goal keep Laura Geitz. Then Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic’s Irene van Dyk accused West Coast Fever defenders of dirty play and “getting away with murder”.

Tasty though these exchanges were, they were mere appetisers. The spectacular main course was served up by the Perth-based Fever’s coach, Norma Plummer, who delivered a “spray”, as Australians call it, of epic proportions. We are barely into autumn, but it seems a safe bet that Plummer has already given the most off-the-leash sports interview of 2013.

She savaged van Dyk (“I could show you some unbelievable stuff on van Dyk, and you’d be bloody shocked; we call her the Smiling Assassin”), Magic coach Noeline Taurua (“If Noeline thinks she wants to be Silver Ferns coach, she’s got a long way to go”), Pulse goal keep Katrina Grant (“No bloody sweetheart either”), Wilkins, Broughton and New Zealand netball in general.
Surprisingly there was no mention of Kiwi dole bludgers cluttering up Bondi beach or New Zealand not pulling its weight in military matters. Perhaps her cellphone battery was running low.

To say Plummer is no shrinking violet is like saying Margaret Thatcher wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea; when she coached Australia, she called the Silver Ferns “a bunch of scrubbers”. But perhaps lobbing verbal hand grenades over the ditch is just something Aussie sports people feel obliged to do.

Last week, for instance, former Wallaby turned commentator Greg Martin lent his support to rugby’s equivalent of the birther theory: the notion that Wallabies Kiwi coach Robbie Deans is a Trojan horse dispatched by the New Zealand Rugby Union to sabotage Australian rugby.

When he was involved with Wales, the much-travelled Aussie rugby coach Scott Johnson called Aotearoa “a poxy little island in the Pacific”. He subsequently apologised, acknowledging that it’s actually “two poxy little islands in the Pacific”.

The affair was reminiscent of the dirty play rows that used to crop up in rugby back in the days before citing commissioners and red and yellow cards: the incident provokes an accusation, which is met with a stonewall denial, swiftly followed by a swingeing counter-attack.

Plummer followed the time-tested script, referencing the incriminating footage of van Dyk on her laptop and suggesting that although Kiwi players can dish it out, they can’t take it: “You can’t touch Donna [Wilkins]; Donna will whinge even if you brushed her”. The clear message was that whereas Kiwi wimps bleat like stricken sheep the moment the going gets tough, Aussie cowgirls don’t cry.

There’s an unmistakable echo of the school playground in this sort of name-calling and petty points-scoring, so it was predictable that Plummer would sign off with a warning that if New Zealand isn’t careful, Australian netball might just take its ball and hoop and go home: “Let’s get serious: we could have a competition without you.”
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Dunkirk – movie review
76769 2017-07-23 00:00:00Z Movies

Dunkirk – movie review

by James Robins

Dunkirk strikes home with minimal dialogue and maximum tension.

Read more
The sex robots are – ahem – coming
76736 2017-07-23 00:00:00Z Technology

The sex robots are – ahem – coming

by Peter Griffin

Sex dolls are becoming increasingly lifelike but human flesh still wins out.

Read more
Naomi Klein: The writer-activist leading the Trump resistance
76609 2017-07-22 00:00:00Z Profiles

Naomi Klein: The writer-activist leading the Trump…

by Diana Wichtel

Naomi Klein has been unpacking the neo-liberal bag of tricks on our behalf since 2000. Now she’s leading a call to resist US President Trump.

Read more
Meet the Kiwis with a passion for poultry behind documentary 'Pecking Order'
73407 2017-07-22 00:00:00Z Movies

Meet the Kiwis with a passion for poultry behind d…

by Beck Eleven

When Slavko Martinov pitched the idea for his documentary to the Film Commission, it came out as 'Best in Show' - with chickens.

Read more
Filthy Rich exposes us as an angry little nation
76565 2017-07-22 00:00:00Z Television

Filthy Rich exposes us as an angry little nation

by Diana Wichtel

Defenestration is all in a day’s work on Filthy Rich.

Read more
A K Rd music fest and more exciting Auckland events
76691 2017-07-22 00:00:00Z What's on

A K Rd music fest and more exciting Auckland event…

by India Hendrikse

A K Road music fest, Dominion Road - The Musical, The Corsini Collection at the Auckland Art Gallery, Chance to Ignite at Q Theatre.

Read more
Marlborough Book Festival is about wine, food, and books, too
76476 2017-07-22 00:00:00Z Books

Marlborough Book Festival is about wine, food, and…

by Sally Blundell

In a region recovering from earthquakes, Marlborough’s book festival is growing each year.

Read more
Psychopaths: Mean, bold, disinhibited - and more likely to be a man
76732 2017-07-22 00:00:00Z Psychology

Psychopaths: Mean, bold, disinhibited - and more l…

by Susan Strongman

Does your ex drink too much, act impulsively and seem to fear nothing? Turns out, they could be a psychopath.

Read more