Netball: Same glorious goal for innovative boss

By Peter White

Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic head coach Noeline Taurua is back in charge for the ANZ Championship - and determined to keep improving New Zealand's most successful netball franchise.

Taurua thought long and hard before deciding to sign a new one-year contract with the Magic and admits it was not an easy decision.

"I have been with the Magic franchise for 10 years and I have grown as a person and a coach," she said. "So one of the things to decide was could I move the team forward and also move players within the team? I wanted to make sure I can still contribute.

"Coming back to win back-to-back titles was not enough for me. It was making sure that I also had that fire in the belly, because the season is so long you have to know you can commit 100 per cent."

No ANZ Championship winners have ever backed up winning the title the following year.

Taurua has shown her capacity for lateral thinking and an understanding of the common factors in various sports, by looking for answers at the Breakers basketball team and at NRL clubs.

"I have done a lot of research looking at the Breakers and also the rugby league and what happened this year with Des Hasler (Bulldogs) and Craig Bellamy from the Storm. I am researching what those teams are doing, why they have been successful and the processes they have taken along the way.

"Winning back-to-back is there but it is important not to look at the outcome. It is process driven and about looking at your systems and making them better than the previous year."

One obvious improvement on last season is the appointment of Tanya Dearns as assistant coach.

Dearns grew up in Tauranga and Rotorua and coached Wellington about a decade ago, before taking charge of Eastern NPC.

And Taurua sees her old teammate's role as pivotal to the Magic's chances of creating history. "The good thing is we played together in Wellington for 10 years, so we have a long-term relationship already, which is always a bonus.

"One of the things I wanted to improve on this year's team is by adding something to our product on court defensively. She automatically brings that with her huge personal presence and the coaching nous she has behind her.

"She will change the dynamics and once again, that is one of the things I am researching. We can't go into the season thinking it will happen again by doing exactly the same things."

Taurua has also analysed last season's victory and is immensely proud of what was achieved.

"Obviously the win was the big thing, the icing on the cake really, but it was actually the journey that we went through to get to the end point that gave me the most satisfaction.

"In previous years, we were the only New Zealand team that celebrated being in the top four, so we had consistency there, but we also acknowledged we didn't have the ability to close it off when we needed to and win the big games.

"So we turned ourselves inside out and introduced a performance and winning culture into our already strong team culture. It took us a while to embed it in the team and there were positives and negatives that came from that.

"One of the most satisfying things is we survived our own standards that we set. We are very clear about where we need to improve on and the way forward, and it is exciting to be involved with a team that is ready to move."

Off the court, the Magic led the way last year with emphasis on nutrition, recovery and fitness.

Taurua says continuing to emphasise those areas is another key to success in the season ahead.

"It was huge and I relate it to the standards we set at the Magic. We were very stringent on that and very disciplined, and made sure the athletes took responsibility for their own product and what they do both on and off the court.

"Our base is strong in that regard and I know there are a lot of things we do that other franchises don't do. We definitely want to keep pushing that along."

The Magic will hold final trials at Tauranga's Aquinas College this Saturday before the squad is announced on November 12.

Taurua says there are still places available, as she can pick two more players this year.

"We can pick 14 players and that is fantastic from my end because in the past, we have had 12. This means we can look at the level underneath, which we did last week at the provincial finals, and how we can improve our development and maybe look at our succession planning as well.

"Definitely, there are four or five spots up for grabs coming out of this weekend.

"Obviously our intention is to contract the bulk of the players we had last year and we are working through that contracting process at the moment."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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