Giants Netball officials have slammed Canberra's inability to host elite netball matches, describing the closure of the AIS Arena as "embarrassing" after being forced to cancel its annual fixture in the capital.
The Super Netball draw will be published on Friday morning, but the Giants won't be playing in Canberra this year despite having a long-term deal to bring one match per season to the ACT.
The ACT government paid Netball New South Wales $130,000 in return for one match per season from 2018 to 2020, with the deal rolled through to the end of this year due to COVID-19.
But the indefinite closure of the AIS Arena means the Giants will play all home matches in Sydney this year.
Giants officials were left in limbo over Christmas about whether the AIS Arena would be open in time for the 2021 season, and had booked out every weekend in July to earmark their return.
The Giants met with Venues Canberra and visited Exhibition Park for an alternative venue, but the hall did not meet international netball standards or broadcasting requirements.
They also looked at the National Convention Centre in Civic, where the Canberra Capitals play most of their WNBL matches. But the netball court dimensions were too large for the venue.
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Giants Netball general manager Tim Underwood said the club was disappointed it could not return to Canberra this year, a city they consider to be their second home.
"It's embarrassing [that] the national capital does not have a facility of a standard that can attract the best indoor sports, or even just something that is of a decent enough standard for basketball or netball that can come and play in from whatever level - from a national competition to the Diamonds, Boomers - whoever it may be," Underwood said.
"It's extremely disappointing [we cannot play at the AIS Arena]. It's a venue we're undefeated in. It's a home that has been really positive for us.
"We've had great experiences every time we've come down there. I think we're embraced by the Canberra community, not just in the ACT but in the surrounding regions as well.
"We know people are travelling from Wagga Wagga and Batemans Bay. Netball really does have a strong community down there."
The Giants are undefeated in their four matches at the AIS Arena and Underwood said they were eager to bring Super Netball back to the capital once the venue reopened.
"We'd love to. We'll look through that with the ACT government and AIS Arena," Underwood said.
"It's a home away from home, it's a strong Giants supporter group and we want to continue building that fan base but also provide opportunities.
"We want young netballers in the ACT to have something to aspire to. We certainly want them to aspire to be a Giant."
The Giants have planned to visit Canberra in late April to work with district associations and host an event for territory-based members.
Giants ACT members would be upgraded to a regional membership, which would allow them to attend one match of their choice at the new Homebush-based Ken Rosewall Arena.
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