Netball: Magic's lean team of staff may be hurting franchise

By Dana Johannsen

Noeline Taurua. Photo / APN
Noeline Taurua. Photo / APN

The Magic's lean management team has come under the spotlight as the star-studded franchise battle to lift themselves off the foot of the transtasman league table.

Three rounds into the 2012 season and the Waikato/Bay of Plenty side's bid to make the finals for the fifth straight year is already in jeopardy. They are the only team without a win and, with a meeting with competition leaders the Melbourne Vixens this weekend, are in danger of slumping to four straight losses.

It was not the start coach Noeline Taurua had envisaged when she made drastic changes to the way the team approaches training as she looked to break their title drought.

Taurua has spoken at length about the need to create a high performance or winning culture in the team.

But questions have been raised as to whether the team are operating in a true high performance environment.

With four frontline Silver Ferns in their line-up and two members of the wider national squad they have high performance athletes, but it does not appear they have the structures in place to support them.

A Herald survey of the 10 ANZ Championship franchises revealed the Magic have the smallest coaching team and the least sophisticated set-up in the league.

Officially, the Magic do not even have an assistant coach. Waikato coach Rebecca Gabel and Bay of Plenty's Mary-Jane Araroa attend trainings in their respective regions, but they take more of an observational role than an active one.

Compare that to the Australian teams, who all have at least three members in their coaching staff.

The Vixens and Thunderbirds have the most technical expertise, each with four members in their coaching staff.

Interestingly, the table-topping Melbourne side employ one coach in a dedicated role of "forward scouting", which involves assembling data on their next opposition and developing strategies to shut down the opposition's strengths.

The Magic's slim management team is largely due to budget constraints, with the franchise's dire financial position putting the squeeze on staff.

Asked if she is happy with the level of assistance she has this year, Taurua said she had little choice.

"I've got what I've got, and I just have to work with that."

She said while it is challenging working with a lean team, she is confident the Magic have the structures in place to help improve their on-court performance. "Even though we are slim in our support structures we are working quite well as a unit, and utilising outside networks as well to provide that extra support," she said.

"I'm probably fortunate where I have a lot of people I've either played against or played with that I can talk to and get their ideas."

Of the New Zealand teams, the Mystics and Steel employ the most staff, although the latter has their players split between Dunedin and Invercargill, creating the need for two strength and conditioning trainers and two physiotherapists.

The Mystics significantly bulked up their management team this season, adding former Australian international Megan Anderson (formerly Dehn) as a technical adviser, and former Tactix trainer Jason Gregory as a skills coach.

Mystics chief executive Julie Paterson said with the ever-increasing demands of the professional era, they needed to ensure the players had the appropriate support.

"We're asking the players to do more and more each year, so it is important that we put the structures in place around that in order to improve on-court performance," she said.

Netball New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle said while the Magic's high performance set-up was "not ideal", the franchise had to cut their cloth according to what they could afford.

Castle said she believed the move to a zone model next season would help boost the resources available to franchises. "If we look at what Australia have got and how the Swifts and Vixens, for example, have an integrated end-to-end pathway for their players and have the support staff to grow their athletes, that's what we hope the zone structure will deliver in New Zealand," she said.

Support staff

Mystics: 9. Head coach, assistant coach, technical adviser, manager, strength and conditioning coach, skills coach, physiotherapist, statistical analyst, video analyst.

Magic: 5. Head coach, manager, physiotherapist, fitness adviser, video analyst.

Pulse: 7. Head coach, assistant coach, manager, physiotherapist, strength and conditioning coach, video analyst, nutritionist.

Tactix: 8. Head coach, assistant coach, manager, physiotherapist, mental skills coach, strength and conditioning coach, video analyst, nutritionist.

Steel: 11. Two head coaches, two strength and conditioning coaches, manager, two physiotherapists, video analyst, statistical analyst, mental skills trainer, nutritionist.

Firebirds: 8. Head coach, assistant coach, assistant specialist coach, manager, high performance manager, strength and conditioning coach, physiotherapist, nutritionist.

Swifts: 8. Head coach, specialist coach, assistant coach/performance analyst, manager, three physiotherapists (only one travels to away games), strength and conditioning coach.

Vixens: 10. Head coach, three assistant coaches (one dedicated to scouting their next opposition), manager, dietitian, sports scientist, strength and conditioning coach, two physiotherapists at all trainings and matches.

Thunderbirds*: 7. Head coach, assistant coach, two specialist coaches, physiotherapist, team manager/video analyst, operations manager.

Fever: 8. Head coach, assistant coach, technical analyst, manager, strength and conditioning coach, two physiotherapists, dietitian.

*Thunderbirds outsource all medical specialists and fast-twitch experts/trainers.

- NZ Herald

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