Netball: Core Magic players poised to quit with departing coach

By Dana Johannsen

Noeline Taurua. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Noeline Taurua. Photo / Sarah Ivey

At least three top Magic netballers are poised to follow departing coach Noeline Taurua out the door.

The board of the Netball Waikato-Bay of Plenty zone has been in place for little more than six months, and the Herald understands increasing interference from the directors was a contributing factor in Taurua's decision to walk away - a year after securing that franchise's first ANZ Championship title.

The board has been accused of blurring the lines between governance and management, and is thought to be lining up one of its own members - former Silver Fern shooter Margaret Forsyth - to take over as coach next season.

Of more immediate concern are rumours that three of the Magic's star players will follow Taurua at the end of the season as unrest in the franchise grows.

Taurua maintains she stepped down because after 11 years at the helm she felt it was the right time to go, but she admits the board is a lot more involved than in previous seasons.

"To be honest, it was 98 per cent because I'm getting old and tired and I need a break," she said.

Asked if she believes the board has too much influence in the day-to-day running of the franchise, Taurua said: "It's definitely different. They seem to be looking for a more hands-on rolein terms of the high performanceaspect."

The long-time Magic mentor, who gave early notice of her intention to step down at the end of the season to give the franchise time to find a replacement before the contracting window opens, has hinted that several of her star players may also be looking for a change next year.

"It's too early to judge how [the new structure] is working - it will be interesting to see how they go in the next year, do the players stay?"

The Magic's star trio of Irene van Dyk, Laura Langman and Casey Kopua - the latter two discovered by Taurua as teenagers - have remained fiercely loyal to their coach.

Without Taurua at the helm, the franchise is scrambling to keep the core group together.

Magic chief executive Tim Hamilton said he hoped to retain these players "iconic to the Magic brand", and the senior player group had already been consulted in the appointment process for a new coach.

"The market in sport these days means that people can look around and look for opportunities, but I would like to think the players will consider their loyalty to the Magic and the fact we're committed to finding the best coach for them," said Hamilton.

Rumours of ructions in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty zone will come as exasperating news to Netball NZ chief Raelene Castle.

Before last year's overhaul of the national structure, the Magic catchment area was her problem child, with in-fighting between the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. It was hoped the move to a new zone-based set-up would allow for a fresh start.

But the new era got off to a rocky start with two board members resigning in protest when former Magic chief executive Sheryl Dawson was overlooked for the top job in the restructure.

Dawson was hugely popular figure within the netball community, to the point where it appeared she had almost blind support from her boards, but she left the Magic and Netball Bay of Plenty in a parlous financial state.

When the new management took over, they found themselves faced with about $600,000 of historical debt.

Castle believes the current climate of unrest in the zone is a hangover from the old regime.

- NZ Herald

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