Netball: Fuller waits in the wings for Mystics

By Dana Johannsen

Te Aroha Keenan. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Te Aroha Keenan. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Northern Mystics' revolving door policy with their coaching staff has continued, with Te Aroha Keenan stepping down from the top job amid rumours she was pushed.

The Auckland side are seeking their third coach in four seasons after Keenan decided not to seek a renewal of her existing contract.

While the franchise insist that the decision was Keenan's alone, it appears the former New Zealand Under-21 coach was encouraged to step aside to allow assistant coach Debbie Fuller to take the reins.

Mystics chief executive Mark Cameron said no decision had been made over a replacement and the recruitment process would begin within the next two weeks.

But it is believed the Mystics will move swiftly to appoint Fuller as head coach, with former Silver Ferns coach Lyn Gunson expected to be a lot more hands-on next season after working mostly behind the scenes this year.

The writing was probably on the wall for Keenan when the Mystics finished a disappointing sixth (although they will argue fifth equal), only a marginal improvement on their eighth place finish in 2009.

Last year it was obvious the Mystics hadn't the talent to compete with the top four sides. But after an aggressive off-season recruitment drive the Auckland side managed to assemble one of the most powerful looking line-ups in the competition for 2010.

But the talent-stacked side, which featured Silver Ferns stars Temepara George, Maria Tutaia and Joline Henry, along with Fern-in-waiting Cathrine Latu, largely failed to fire once again this season and ended the year ranked the third best New Zealand side.

Their mediocre finish was blamed on the widespread changes to the squad, with the new combinations taking some time to settle in.

Cameron yesterday gave a glowing account of Keenan's contribution to the franchise.

"We're disappointed to lose someone of Te's calibre as she has contributed to the team and franchise's significant improvement in the past two years. Te will leave knowing the franchise is in a much better position than when she took on the 2009 role as head coach."

After serving as assistant under Yvonne Willering in the inaugural season of the transtasman league, Keenan took over as head coach when Willering was axed following the team's dismal finish in 2008.

At the time, Keenan was deputy principal at Auckland's Mt Albert Grammar and took a two-year leave of absence from teaching to concentrate on coaching. Cameron said the time had come for Keenan to decide between staying on as coach or returning to the teaching profession, and she opted for the latter.

- NZ Herald

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