Diamonds gone, Plummer hasn't lost sparkle

17:07, May 24 2013
Norma Plummer
FEVER PITCH: Former Australia and now West Coast Fever coach Norma Plummer has had a lifelong passion for netball.

If Norma Plummer noticed all the double-takes, she didn't show it.

It's not every day that New Zealand netball's nemesis is holding court in a Lambton Quay cafe. But there she was, all right, though the looks on some of the faces suggested they were surprised to see the old dragon wasn't breathing fire.

If anything, Plummer actually seemed nervous. Her reputation tends to precede her in this country and she certainly lived up to it in her last interview with The Dominion Post.

Something she and her chaperone, Netball Western Australia general manager Stuart Gilsenan, noted before it was time to talk on the record.

Plummer might coach the West Coast Fever these days but she will forever be remembered for her eight-year term and two world titles as Australian Diamonds coach.

She still revels in the 2011 victory, mostly because it was won by players she'd previously identified and then moulded as Australian Institute of Sport and national under-21 coach.


"I know no-one backed me for the world championships when I lost [Sharelle] McMahon and I lost Lauren Nourse. But I looked at our depth and could see what they could offer," Plummer said.

"And they knew that I backed them - those kids. I think that's probably the best thing about coaching, even better than the wins. To see them blossom on court, that's great."

Her conversation is littered with anecdotes of that kind. Widowed for nearly 30 years now, Plummer happily declares that netball is her life.

"Well, I lost my husband with cancer and it gives me free reign. My daughter is in her 30s, so there's nothing that holds me up from doing the job."

Plummer has another year on her contract with the Fever and Netball WA, with an option for 2015, if she feels up to it

"I'm not a junior anymore, I'm getting old."

How old she wouldn't say, and everyone knows it's impolite to ask a woman her age. She'd like to carry on for 2015 but, if not, she'll continue the coach mentoring which is the other strand to her job in Perth.

FOR now Plummer continues to feel relevant, even if players and their attitudes and demands have changed a lot since she first became player-coach of the Melbourne Netball Club back in 1967.

"Getting kids mentally tuned is the hardest part. This group coming through are just so different to what I had even 15 years ago, 10 years ago. They're not as tactical, they haven't been out there running around and kicking footies or throwing balls, they've been on iPads and all that stuff.

"Plus, these days, I've got them every day. It would've been a couple of days a week previously and then we'd have the match, so you weren't involved in their life as much. Now you're in their life a lot more, so you see all the different emotions.

"It's a hard balance to get right, too. You've got to be able to nurture, if that's the word. It's interesting."

Plummer has moved with the times but isn't sure everyone running the game has.

Given how fiercely her teams fought the Silver Ferns, it might surprise some people to know she's delighted that Vicki Wilson is now New Zealand's assistant coach. Plummer had advised Wilson to look further afield for employment and was one of the first people to offer her congratulations.

"But I said, ‘I still think you looked rather stunning in gold' and she said ‘but I'll look a lot slimmer in black'."

Professional coaches, in Plummer's view, simply have to go where the work is.

"But a lot of people still look at it from an amateur point of view and say ‘you shouldn't do that'."

She hopes Wilson's appointment will encourage players to go where they can get best-paid, too. Netball New Zealand have a policy of not allowing players to play outside of this country, which Plummer thinks is nonsense.

She always preferred players to stick to Australian franchises but cites the example of Julie Corletto as a reason why rules don't work. Corletto is now a Northern Mystic, because her husband Daryl plays in Auckland for the New Zealand Breakers, yet she'll still be a Diamond this year.

"The minute you step in and start fiddling with a player's love life, you're going to come off second best. You've got to work with players.

"I mean that's her husband, it's not her boyfriend. They're only a young married couple and they have a right to be together."

Not that Plummer has anything against boyfriends. In fact she does her best to make sure her players have one, because of the stability it often brings.

Just don't get her started on all the problems that eventuate if the player and their boyfriend break up.

The Dominion Post