New Zealand's top coaches thin on the ground

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 18/07/2014
Hilary Poole
MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ
HOLES TO FILL: Netball New Zealand chief executive Hilary Poole laments a missing generation of local coaches.

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The next coach of the Silver Ferns will probably be an Australian.

Netball New Zealand (NNZ) chief executive Hilary Poole regards this country's coaching stocks as so limited, that Australians might also have to helm the bulk of our trans-Tasman Netball League franchises.

New Zealand's best-performing franchise, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, were coached by Australian Julie Fitzgerald this year, Vicki Wilson is the Silver Ferns' assistant coach and now the Mainland Tactix are looking to replace Leigh Gibbs with Sue Hawkins. And the Australian invasion is unlikely to end there.

"NNZ hasn't invested as it should have in development, particularly in the elite coach space," Poole said yesterday.

"Because of that, we have a gap [between ourselves and Australia]. I believe we're a generation behind Australia, in terms of the maturity of their programme, the depth that is coming through and the investment."

If Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander woke up in Manchester today, where her team are preparing for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and decided she'd had enough, any number of homegrown replacements could immediately be installed.

But Poole, who's been at NNZ nine months, doubted she'd be able to opt for a New Zealander when Waimarama Taumaunu's contract as Silver Ferns coach expires next year.

"I would very much like to think so, but I'm very much one for appointing the best person for the job. So we would run a thorough process and we would appoint the best person," said Poole.

The same for franchises. The Tactix are looking at Hawkins, who's previously coached outfits like the old Auckland Diamonds and England, to run their show next year.

"Of course we'd like to appoint a New Zealander, but we would sit with the recommendation of the Mainland Tactix board," said Poole.

So, to be crystal clear, is it fair to presume Australians will be the best candidates for almost every coaching job in this country?

"I think we have to expect that," she said.

Poole said NNZ were taking steps to remedy this situation. Eddie Kohlhase, from High Performance Sport New Zealand, has just spent six weeks surveying the netball coaching landscape.

His report is due next month but, even with the best will in the world, Poole felt it could be three years before any subsequent actions bore fruit.

She said the existing coach accelerator programme was achieving some success, notably in the shape of the Southern Steel's Janine Southby, who now has world under-21 and Fast5 wins on her resume.

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But, unless they fancy recruiting Aussies, franchises like the Central Pulse will need to keep leaning on Robyn Broughton for the foreseeable future. Broughton is highly enthused about the Pulse's prospects for next year, but also conscious that the franchise had no alternatives if she wasn't.

Poole said NNZ owed it to everyone involved in the game to build more coaching depth and give their national and franchise teams the best chance of success.

"We've got a gap, we want to invest more heavily in that elite end and we want to do that in a quite considered, sustained way."

Meanwhile, the Pulse have re-signed captain Katrina Grant for the 2015 trans-Tasman Netball League season.

- The Dominion Post

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