Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Netball: Fitzgerald keen to keep top trio

Julie Fitzgerald. Photo / Getty Images
Julie Fitzgerald. Photo / Getty Images

New Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald wants to get a feel for the surroundings before she comes in and makes any changes at the franchise.

After the departure of Noeline Taurua, the Magic confirmed yesterday that Fitzgerald would become the first Australian head coach of a New Zealand team in netball's ANZ Championship. Australian Natalie Avellino has been a co-coach and assistant at the Steel.

Taurua was part of the furniture at the Magic but decided to move on after guiding the side to one title in the first six years of the competition, which opened the door for change.

There are some pressing concerns for Fitzgerald, namely whether she can hold on to the Magic's off-contract core of Casey Kopua, Irene van Dyk and Laura Langman. Netball players are fiercely loyal to coaches and the trio may rather move on than be coached by someone different at the same franchise.

Fitzgerald said she wanted to retain the Magic's big three but needed to conduct a few meet-and-greet sessions.

"That's definitely my first focus is to get over there as soon as I can and meet with all of the players individually," Fitzgerald said.

As for any negative stigma regarding her nationality, Fitzgerald didn't seem too bothered.

"[I've given it] a little bit of thought, but to be honest, I think once we get started no one will care."

It's hard to deny Fitzgerald has an impressive track record. She guided the NSW Swifts to the inaugural transtasman netball crown in 2008 and has spent the past two years at the Australian Institute of Sport. The Magic have been criticised for having a light training schedule as they met as a team only on Wednesday night and Thursday morning but Fitzgerald wouldn't be drawn on whether she would come in and enforce a heavier practice diet.

"I think every team has a different set-up. Teams where everyone lives in a close proximity train differently to teams where everyone is far away, so that's something that I'm definitely not even thinking about until I get over there and find things out."

The chance to coach at the elite level again was what drew Fitzgerald to the position.

"I've loved the last two years I've had at the Australian Institute of Sport. It's sort of invigorated me, I think, and I think it's made me a better coach."


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