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Equal pay for netballers, footballers levels the playing field at trailblazing Bendigo club

Footballer Jack Geary and netballer Maddy Keighran welcome the news of netballers getting paid.  (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

On the eve of the Bendigo Football Netball season, the Golden Square Football Netball Club has made a statement, announcing a commitment to pay parity. 

For the first time, the A-grade netballers will get paid to play, but most of the senior football players will get paid more.

Golden Square Football Netball Club President Ian Symons said the conversation started during a meeting about the club's values. 

He said some senior players get more, based on experience and loyalty, but the club was keen for the netball payment to match the footballers, even if it took a few years to catch up.

The ABC understands most of the senior footballers at the club get more than $150 a game. 

"The base payment is $100 per person in the senior footy team," Mr Symons said.

"And that will now be the same case for the girls."

Golden Square Football Netball Club President Ian Symons says the club wants to practice what it preaches, and hopes it'll help junior player development.  (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Golden Square netballer Maddy Keighran said it was very exciting news for the netballers. 

The A-grade team will go from not getting paid at all, to getting $100 a game.

"I think it sends a clear message to all the players that us netballers are valued by the club just as much as the footballers," Keighran said.

Golden Square Football captain Jack Geary also welcomed the news.

"The footballers have been getting paid for years, it seems only fair that the netballers got there eventually," Geary said.

For both players, the good news was unexpected.

"I think it's probably as big a shock to the netballers, you know, as anyone because they weren't pushing for it," Geary said.

"For the club to be so proactive and more or less offer it, is unbelievable, really."

The Golden Square Football Netball Club is the first in the BFNL, and could be the first in the state, to commit to equal pay.  (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

'Other clubs will have to step up,' commentator 

Netball Journalist Erin Delahunty told ABC Central Victoria Breakfast that most regional netballers did not get paid.

"For a long time, netballers have been, viewed as a bit of an add-on to the football," Ms Delahunty said.

"We have seen netball players in regional areas starting to get paid in the last couple of years."

But this has been considered nothing, compared to what the best senior footballers in country league are paid to play. 

"I know of several [netball] players in the Echuca region that are getting $250 a game.

"But the idea of pay parity … is quite astounding.

Ms Delahunty has been involved with regional netball for a decade and said this could force other clubs to have the conversation around equal pay.

A-Grade netballers to receive equitable pay to Senior footballers

Payments to netballers have not been included in the club’s salary cap, as the cap for the Bendigo Football Netball League does not cover netball.

AFL Central Victoria governs the Bendigo Football Netball League's salary cap, while the netball in the Bendigo league, comes under Netball Victoria.

"Does netball Victoria need to institute a salary cap into netball? Not something they've probably ever had to think about before," Ms Delahunty said. 

AFL Central Victoria regional manager Craig Armstead said the governing body supported the principle of equal pay for netballers but recognised it could be a challenge for some clubs. 

"It could put pressure on volunteers to generate the revenue required to pay them."

"The total cost of running a club … if that cost goes up, that could lead to pressure on volunteers to generate that money." 

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