Helen Housby called on netball decision-makers to ‘stand up and fight’ for the sport’s future as Coronavirus leaves prospects of professionalisation hanging in the balance.

The ongoing suspension of the Vitality Superleague - stripping clubs of 70 per cent of their income - is a hammer blow to the finances of a league that remains part-time.

With England Netball starting negotiations for a fresh domestic media rights deal this year, on which professionalisation seems to rest, Housby called for a bold approach.

“Professionalism isn’t going to happen overnight but we need to demand the best,” said Housby.

“Netball is traditionally polite in the way we express ourselves on the scene of global sport. We don’t fight or stand up for what we are.

“In Australia, we’re leading the way and I still think we could shout more about it what the girls are getting paid, making more demands from sponsors.

“That’s definitely what’s needed in the UK - standing up and fighting for netball.

“The World Cup and big competitions show the way and what a great spectacle the sport is. It’s a perfect game commercially because you can runs adverts between quarters.

“Demanding more from the powers that be is crucial.”

England Netball, led by chief executive Fran Connolly, have pinned their colours to the mast when it comes to professionalisation but admit much depends on their new deal.

With scores of top-flight stars juggling a job with their sport, the issue of mental health and burnout is nothing new in netball and is coming to the fore in the midst of a pandemic.

A Coronavirus Mental Health fund has been launched by the Netball Players Association with reigning champions Manchester Thunder already having furloughed their squad.

It’s no coincidence that the two countries with professional domestic leagues - Australia and New Zealand - have contested every single World Cup final since 2008.

Housby plies her trade in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball for New South Wales Swifts, a league where the speed and standard of play resembles international competition.

Housby started her career at Thunder under former England coach Tracey Neville before relocating to Sydney in 2017 so is uniquely placed to assess the widening gap.

The goal shooter underlines how moving Down Under has taken her game to the next level and could do the same for a generation of talent in England.

“In Manchester we’d only see each other twice a week whereas in Australia it’s every day, twice a day usually,” she said.

“You’re doing a lot more extras, like video analysis, and improvements in your game come with that.

“The girls in England have to hold down proper jobs and train early morning or late at night.

“Getting more exposure for the players in the media and more money pumped into the game should mean they won’t need to work and can fully focus on netball.

“It’s made a massive difference for me. It was only once I got scouted to come and play in Australia that I was like ‘right, I’m a netballer.’

“If you can put professionalism in place, girls are going to want to stick with netball and they won’t necessarily give it up when they go to university, they’ll see it as a career.

“Focussing totally on your sport takes your mind off all the little things that might worry you. You can be secure in what you’re doing.”