Foster goes into bat for NZ netball coaches

14:20, Jul 05 2013
Marg Foster
MARG FOSTER: ''Over in Australia the coaching staff underneath what they have is huge, then underneath that is huge, they all get paid. We only have that top tier that get paid.''

Departing Netball New Zealand CEO Raelene Castle handed the country's aspiring coaches a stinging slap on her way out the door.

Then, one of the unsuccessful Magic coaching candidates fought fire with fire, as Marg Foster took her turn to have a swipe.

Having previously been of the firm belief that no Australians should be brought in to coach this country's ANZ Championship teams, Castle turned on her word and signed off on the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic employing Julie Fitzgerald.

Castle, who leaves to take up the role of CEO at the Canterbury Bulldogs NRL club, said that none of the New Zealand applicants for the Magic job were up to standard.

That includes this year's assistant, Tanya Dearns.

''The New Zealand applicants were very strong New Zealand coaches but [the Magic] didn't have what we believed was the experienced coach to be a head coach in an ANZ Championship franchise,'' Castle said. 

''It's an incredibly difficult coaching job, much more difficult than people realise. And we wanted to ensure that those coaches still had the opportunity to grow and develop, which they will under Julie, and that in the future, in the next couple of years, they will, with that experience, have the opportunity to take over as head coach. But to put them in at this stage would have been a step too far.''

Earlier this year Australian Vicki Wilson was announced as the Silver Ferns assistant coach, but Castle told Fairfax Media then that the national set up and the trans-Tasman league were ''separate''

''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,'' she said in May.

''If you allow Australians into the ANZ Championship level, then you're even less likely to develop Silver Ferns head coaches.''

Castle tried to say she had never said as such, but that she had always had a ''preference'' for a New Zealand coach.

There was comprehensive criteria put in place which New Zealand candidates had to meet, seemingly blocking their rise to the top.

Dearns said she had received no feedback on missing out and that she was disappointed to not get the role, but that Magic CEO Tim Hamilton had told her that Fitzgerald was keen to meet her next week to discuss the possibility of being an assistant coach.

One of the conditions in Fitzgerald's two-year contract is that she has to use New Zealand support staff and if the Magic want to re-appoint her after two years they will have to go to Netball New Zealand for approval again.

Castle said New Zealanders would still be given preference for future appointments at Kiwi teams.

''It's not our perfect scenario that we continue to put a large number of Australian coaches into our coaching pathway. But it's also about competitive advantage and making sure you put the best team together.''

But Foster, who applied for the role but didn't get shortlisted, wasn't having a bar of that.

Rather than being angry for personal reasons, Foster went into bat for New Zealand coaches in general.

She and Dearns had both made the shortlist for the Ferns assistant coach and part of Netball New Zealand's feedback to them, she said, was that they had to get head coaching experience at a New Zealand franchise.

''Why tell us that information, head coach role, if there's nothing there,'' she said.

''If you want to be a professional coach in New Zealand, there are only five jobs. It's not like there's 25 jobs.

''Over in Australia the coaching staff underneath what they have is huge, then underneath that is huge, they all get paid. We only have that top tier that get paid.''

Foster, who once got down to the final two for the Queensland Firebirds job before the Diamonds coach insisted it had to be an Australian, said part of the ANZ Championship was to not only grow athletes, but also coaches.

''I get really frustrated that it's blocking, once again, pathways for coaches and not giving people an opportunity to spark and present themselves.

''If those two coaches [Fitzgerald and Wilson] are that good, why aren't they coaching Australia.

''We're not leading the way, we're just copy-catting. It used to be intriguing when we played Australia in the past because we had our own style and our own way. And now, what, are we going to play like Australia? When the coaches come, are they bringing their Australian style, what other style do they know.''


Fairfax Media