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   Jul 13

Hello Collingwood Magpies and welcome back to a Melbourne netball derby

Collingwood AFL captain Scott Pendlebury and Collingwood netball captain Madi Robinson on Tuesday. Photo: Vince CaligiuriCricket’s Big Bash League flogs them. In the A-League, they prove to be among the highlights of each season. And they were once a mainstay of the National Basketball League in Melbourne.
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Derbies. Club versus club or team versus team in the same city. They are a dream for marketeers and, truth be told, a godsend for sports editors.

Excitement is circling around the relaunched national netball competition, known as the Super Netball league, a competition that also signals the return of a Melbourne netball derby for the first time since 2007.

This Saturday Collingwood’s new netball team – yep, that behemoth of the AFL competition that you either love or hate – takes on the Melbourne Vixens in one of three state derbies that feature on the opening weekend of the revamped -only competition.

Goodbye to the New Zealand franchises in the ANZ Championship and welcome back to something resembling the old Commonwealth Bank Trophy that started in the late 1990s. For netball fans, this new-look competition features something all sports administrators crave: free-to-air TV exposure.

It’s also an invigorating time for the netballers themselves.

“We’re really excited. I think it’s been the longest anticipation for a season we’ve ever had. It’s been about five or six months leading up to this round one game,” said Magpies captain Madi Robinson, who has crossed from the Vixens.

“As a team we’re all coming from different teams, so whether it’s me round one, or someone else round two, we’re all be feeling the pressure facing our old teams.”

Robinson debuted in the national competition when Melbourne boasted two franchises.

“When I first started playing netball at the elite level, we had the two Melbourne teams,” she says.”So I think it’s great to be able to have two teams again, and obviously build that rivalry.

“I think the first five minutes, or even the first quarter will be full on. There will be a lot of physicality. I expect them to come and try and biff.”

The start of the Super Netball league comes hot on the heels of the launch of the AFL Women’s competition and coincides with almost unprecedented interest in women’s sport.

But Robinson, for one, is not worried about the threat of top netballers being swallowed up by another code, namely the AFLW.

“The cream of the crop, or the elite netballers, are very good at what they do, and I think they’ll remain in the sport,” she says.

“I think some of those [athletes] that are trying to push to get into the top teams, that’s where we might see a few go to football.

“I know some of them are trying to watch us in the gym and are going ‘would you like to come and have a kick?’

“We’ll leave that for a couple of years.

“I think netball is still at the forefront of everyone’s mind, which is great.”

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