Netball joins the ACT's big party
Australian Diamonds will play New Zealand Silver Ferns in Canberra next year. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
THE ACT government will ramp up negotiations with the AFL, soccer and hockey to complete its centenary sporting puzzle after securing a Canberra clash between international netball's biggest rivals.
The government will announce this week that the Australian Diamonds will play a Test match against New Zealand Silver Ferns at the AIS Arena next year.
It is understood the trans-Tasman clash will be part of the Constellation Cup series between the teams and potentially the deciding game in October.
The game will almost certainly be a sell out with Australia and New Zealand pitted as the top two teams in the world and known for their intense battles.
The announcement follows ongoing negotiations with Netball Australia.
The biggest sticking point was an increased cost for the Test given the AIS Arena can only hold around 4000 fans for a netball match.
Constellation Cup contests can attract up to 9000 fans and Netball Australia will lose out on the revenue from an extra 5000 ticket sales, which could add up to $200,000.
That pushed the price up, but the government will also have a ''live site'' at the AIS for fans to watch the match on a big screen at the precinct and give them a chance to meet the players.
It's the latest addition to a bumper year of sport to celebrate Canberra's 100th birthday.
With netball locked in, the government will now wait for the AFL to issue its draw for next season where there is also the possibility of the capital hosting one of the league's major events.
The Sunday Canberra Times understands the ACT government is talking to the AFL about moving one of its biggest off-field events to Canberra to promote the game.
The options include the season launch, the draft, the Hall of Fame dinner or the Brownlow Medal.
Should the government secure one of those, it will add to the scheduled Greater Western Sydney matches and the hopeful return of ACT Sport Hall of Fame inductee James Hird.
Hird coaches the Essendon Bombers and it is hoped he will take on his former mentor Kevin Sheedy and the GWS Giants at Manuka Oval.
The government has built a blockbuster sporting calendar that already includes the rugby league Anzac Test, Australia's one-day cricket team for the first time in February under lights at Manuka, a British and Irish Lions rugby tour match against the ACT Brumbies and the women's golf Australian Open.
The Brumbies' clash with the British and Irish Lions could receive a massive boost with England's Jonny Wilkinson set to come out of international retirement for the tour.
Wilkinson led England to a World Cup triumph over Australia in 2003 and the five-eighth now plays for Toulon.
With netball now secured, attention turns to hockey and soccer.
The Socceroos' schedule for next year is yet to be released, but the ACT Sport Minister, Andrew Barr, is confident the Australian team will play in the capital.
However, it will be against a high-ranking opponent rather than a minnow nation like in the past.
An international hockey fixture is likely to be scheduled for the second half of next year as the government continues its negotiations.
It's understood the price tag on a hockey match is out of the government's range during this financial year, but the parties are working together to try to have games played at Lyneham.
The Australian netball team played in Australia last year and Mr Barr is excited to have the team back.
''We'll be making an announcement on the netball in the next week or so and it just adds another fixture to the biggest year in sport Canberra has ever seen,'' Mr Barr said.
''We'll try to get the maximum seats we can into the AIS Arena and then have a live site at the AIS so as many people can be a part of the experience.''