Proteas coach Norma Plummer wants to change overcomplicated Netball World Cup format

Proteas coach Norma Plummer wants to change overcomplicated Netball World Cup format
South Africa head coach Norma Plummer has clear ideas about what the competition format should look like. The convoluted system left fans perplexed. (Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup 2023)

Keeping up with the ever-changing groups and convoluted format of the Netball World Cup has proven a challenge for the layperson. South Africa’s Australian-born netball coach Norma Plummer says things should be made simpler for the sake of players and fans.

South Africa’s Australian-born netball coach Norma Plummer has raised an eyebrow about the complex Netball World Cup format, after South Africa’s 67-49 loss to Jamaica on Sunday evening, 30 July, at Cape Town International Convention Centre. 

“You’re telling me? I’ve known that for years, but they won’t change it,” Plummer said, when asked about the format by the media.

The tournament is split into three phases. Preliminaries Stage 1. Preliminaries Stage 2, and Play-offs and Placings phase.

In phase one, the first preliminary group stage, the 16 competing countries are split into four groups — Pools A to D – of four teams.

In the first preliminary group stage, each team plays the other in the group, before they are split into three new Pools — E to F – in the second preliminary group stage.

The bottom four teams from the preliminary group stage are put into Pool E, as they play for ranking spots between 13-16.

Pools F and G meanwhile contain the top 12 teams from the four original groups. The two teams finishing top of Pool F and G go through to the semi-final and then final stage of the Netball World Cup.

Captain Bongiwe Msomi of South Africa during the Netball World Cup 2023, Pool C match between Jamaica and South Africa at CTICC Centre Court 1 on 30 July, 2023 in Cape Town. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup 2023)

Top vs bottom eight teams

Because of the gulf in class between the top eight teams and bottom eight teams in World Netball, there are often still blowouts in the second preliminary group stage. 

“I have a theory on how [to fix the format],” said Plummer. 

“I’d like to see the top eight and bottom eight [separate]. And I’d like to see the bottom eight play for a shield or something.

“Because what’s happening, you get these scores of 110 to 20. Who wants to look at that? Plus, that doesn’t give those teams anything to strive for.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas suffer third-quarter slaughter in loss to Jamaica, but hope remains for World Cup semifinal challenge

“I’ve always challenged World Netball and said, ‘why are we doing this?’”

“And they said, oh, they really like to play against Australia and all the top sides. I don’t see that, and I’m not sure that’s so. 

“But if you had the top eight, you play everybody. So every game is as close as what you’ve seen there [Jamaica vs South Africa’s clash].”

South Africa’s players during the Netball World Cup 2023, Pool C match between Jamaica and South Africa at CTIC Centre Court 1 on 30 July, 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup 2023)

Closing the gap to cluster teams

Plummer’s suggestion in a format change – from the one that has been in operation since 1991 – would see teams clustered together in the world rankings competing against one another.

 “That, to me, would lift our game up another notch for people to see. But also giving the underpinning teams, the other bottom eight, an opportunity for relegation, and that bottom of the top and the top of the bottom playoff then for relegation so they could move up,” Plummer added. “You’ve got to have that in it.

“But I also think they can strive to get the shield or something.

“But then you would see if all the top teams played one another – because we might meet England or Australia – and yet we only went down by two goals last time against the Aussies.

“And the time before we didn’t even meet New Zealand. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: South Africa aim for podium finish at Netball World Cup

“To me, you need all your top teams playing one another and how you would finish — whoever finished on top, second, third and fourth.”

“So one and two would play off for the gold, three and four for the bronze, and then all the others would go into rankings.

“It wouldn’t be any more games, still 16 teams. But listen, that’s just my idea. I’m not on World Netball.” DM



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