Why Norma Plummer is not the retiring type

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2014
Norma Plummer
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ
LEGEND: Former Australia coach Norma Plummer.

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Don't call it retirement. Norma Plummer might bow out as West Coast Fever coach on Monday night when they meet the Central Pulse in Perth, but she won't be ditching the whistle and clipboard.

Best known for her hugely successful tenure as Australian coach, Plummer has no plans to step away from the game.

But 16 years spent running high performance programmes or national and franchise teams from Canberra and Perth have been enough and she'll finally return to her beloved Melbourne at the end of the trans-Tasman Netball League season.

The Fever had attempted to extend her contract for a second time, but Plummer sees her coaching future being beyond Australia's shores.

"I've got some international connections that want me to work with them and just be a specialist coach doing individual work and mentoring some coaches. Certainly that's in the pipeline, even within the next six months," Plummer said this week.

"South Africa have asked me for the last three years, but I haven't been able to do anything. But they're the sort of teams that are crying out for assistance."

That desire to help needy overseas teams doesn't extend to following the lead of countrywoman Julie Fitzgerald and coaching at one of New Zealand's franchises. Fitzgerald's done well with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, but Mainland Tactix coach Leigh Gibbs has called it a day and there's a wee bit of uncertainty at other teams.

"What? You reckon Robyn [Central Pulse coach Robyn Broughton] is retiring, do ya? I don't think you'll have any players there next season if she goes. No, I'm not looking at anything in that sphere, it's mainly the international stuff I'm keen on," said Plummer.

Big things were expected of Plummer at the Fever, especially when Natalie Medhurst and Chelsea Pitman were recruited for this year. But the coach hasn't been able to get the Fever to the playoffs in any of her three seasons.

"Unfortunately the blend just didn't go together this year, which was very disappointing," she said.

"We could've been [a semifinal side] but, for whatever reason, it just didn't work. The problem, mainly, once again was we lost Ash Brazill with a broken wrist and also Chanel Gomes.

"Both those players came to Perth with me in 2012 and I said if they came over and did all the work and did what I wanted them to they could make the Australian squad and both did. But we've lost Ash again this year and last year it was six weeks with a bad ankle and the first year she did her knee.

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"She has been the main driver for us on court and the one that gees up the gang and gets them going and we've lost that all year.

"Gomes, I thought, could've been anything, but she's got rheumatoid arthritis and it just can't be cured. It's in the blood stream and the kid has really struggled this year."

Plummer's isn't the only team not to achieve their potential this season, including Monday's foe the Pulse.

"I think I tipped them at the start of the year. I thought they would probably go all the way.

"It's been interesting, they're just like Mystics and ourselves. We've underachieved, Mystics have probably underachieved and Pulse has had chances but didn't step over the line."

The Fever have also been hampered by the quality of the other Australian franchises. You have to be outstanding to win from their side of the draw and the proposed changes to the competition structure will only make it harder for Australian sides to succeed, given that there will be a 50 per cent chance that a New Zealand team is crowned champions every year.

Plummer has always said the only fair way to run this league is to make it a full home-and-away competition. That view hasn't changed. "But I think they're trying to create some excitement and whether that works I don't know. In the end you've got to give something a go. I won't even have to worry about it."

Instead she'll be an international gun for hire, having rebuilt West Australian netball from the ground up, without seeing it fully come to fruition with the Fever. "I leave them in a pretty good position, as far as what we've put together."

- The Dominion Post

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