Raelene Castle went out with a bang, yesterday.
On her last day as Netball New Zealand (NNZ) chief executive, before taking on the same job at the Canterbury Bulldogs NRL club, Castle went completely against her own policy on appointing Australians to coach our trans-Tasman Netball League franchises.
Castle and NNZ raised plenty of eyebrows in May, when they named Vicki Wilson as Silver Ferns assistant coach for the next two years. It was a watershed moment for netball in this country and seemed to pave the way for a time when an Australian might coach one of New Zealand's five franchise teams.
"The two things are separate," Castle told The Dominion Post in May.
"What we've done in the Silver Ferns' environment is one thing and, yes, you could argue that we've now set a precedent around the assistant coach, but certainly there is no precedent around the ANZ Championship coach and that continues to need to be a New Zealand-developed coach because that is the pathway.
"If you allow Australians into the ANZ Championship level, then you're even less likely to develop Silver Ferns head coaches."
Castle was singing from a different hymn sheet yesterday after she and NNZ approved the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's decision to appoint Australian Julie Fitzgerald as their head coach for the next two years.
Castle initially argued that she's never said never to Aussies, only to eventually concede that Fitzgerald's appointment wasn't NNZ's finest hour.
"Would Netball New Zealand want an Australian coaching the Magic? No we wouldn't," Castle said.
"But the reality is it's a pragmatic decision because the next level of coaches, we felt, were at risk of being exposed if they got the head coach job.
"So they [the Magic] came to us with a two-year plan of how they're going to have a good coach in charge of an important franchise to us, as all franchises are, and they're going to use Julie's experience to grow and develop some young coaches so that they can take over in two years' time."
Fitzgerald, the former New South Wales Swifts coach and, until yesterday, Australian assistant coach, has the power to name her own Magic assistants but they must be New Zealanders, Castle said.
Tanya Dearns was co-coach of this year's Magic team, with Noelene Taurua, and on the shortlist to succeed her. Dearns was too miffed to say much yesterday but has been told Fitzgerald wants to sit down with her next week.
The appointment of Fitzgerald will give some clarity to the Magic's players, some of whom are reportedly in discussions with other franchises. Under the league's rules that's not meant to happen until after that year's Grand Final, in this case July 14, although Castle confirmed that it's actually common practice.
"It's okay as long as the players are okay with it," she said.
Franchises can approach players from rival teams and, if they get the green light, negotiations can commence.
"So, yes, it is happening, but it should only be happening under that process."
- © Fairfax NZ News