‘Gender bias in the extreme’
Plans to upgrade Willoughby Leisure Centre have been condemned by the Northern Suburbs Netball Association (NSNA), after it was proposed a netball court would be lost.
As part of the redevelopment, Willoughby City Council has proposed using one of the 19 courts located next to the centre to house a crane during the 18 months of construction from late 2022.
While that court would be returned to use after the build, another would be used long term to accommodate overflow parking from the leisure centre.
The local netball association has labelled the plans ‘gender bias in the extreme’ saying the loss of a court at Bicentennial Reserve may result in 160 players being cut.
It says the competition is already forced to play shorted games of 40 minutes across three days due to demand, with no new courts built in Northern Sydney since 1988.
“The loss of one netball court does not sound a great burden for a sport to endure, however the back story of how netball in this part of Sydney has had to struggle to secure facilities to play sport has been relentless and difficult,” says NSNA President Ineke Walker.
“Numerically, the loss of one netball court equates to the loss of three timeslots on Friday and seven timeslots on a Saturday. Each timeslot has two teams with approximately eight players, which totals 20 teams and 160 players.
“As known, netball is predominantly played by females, [so] 160 female players would need to be culled from existing competitions or registration numbers capped by 160 due to the proposal…”
The association has urged Council to consider constructing two new courts east of the existing hardcourts, to mitigate the loss of playing space.
Council says the forecast need for overflow parking is based on pre-COVID-19 analysis, with the court not to be permanently used as a carpark.
It says netball will also benefit from the new Gore Hill indoor sports centre, expected to be completed by the 2025 season.
“The current situation of loss of one court for a period of time, is to be balanced against the benefits that arise to the community through the redevelopment of the Willoughby Leisure Centre pools,” a spokesperson told North Shore Living.