Former Melbourne Vixens coach Julie Hoornweg has been named to lead the new Auckland franchise in the inaugural season of the ANZ elite netball league.
The ANZ Championship came to a thrilling end over the weekend, with the Queensland Firebirds claiming a tense double overtime victory over the NSW Swifts. Attention has now turned to gearing up for the new era as New Zealand and Australia move back to stand alone domestic leagues.
The New Zealand competition will include an additional team based in Auckland, with the confirmation of Hoornweg as coach an important step for the programme.
Further details, including the team name and playing base, are expected in the coming weeks.
Hoornweg, the Vixens' foundation coach, has led Netball Tasmania's elite athlete and coaching programmes for the past two years, and has international coaching experience with Fiji and England.
Former Mystics chief executive Mark Cameron, who is on the board of the new franchise, said the original working party, headed by Waimarama Taumaunu, "knocked on a lot of doors" to ensure they had a strong pool of candidates to select the new coach from.
"The appointment of Julie gives the franchise credibility from the outset," said Cameron.
"She has pretty firm ideas about the high performance culture and environment she wants to establish with this team, and she has a proven ability to produce championship-winning teams."
Now they have a coach lined up, Cameron said the franchise will look to move quickly to assembling a roster and are targeting a "marquee" player for each third of the court.
The new side, which will be based in the South Auckland catchment, is expected to target Auckland-bred players based in other parts of New Zealand.
"We've had a lot of conversations with players, and the first thing they ask is 'who is the coach?' so now we have that confirmed, we can start having more serious conversations."
Hoornweg said she wants a group of ambitious players who are willing to work hard.
"I'm looking for players that are striving for excellence and want to be winners, but also work strongly in a team base. It's very important that a team culture and a brand is established fairly early on and we have athletes that aspire to those concepts and ideas," she said.
Having helped set up the Vixens franchise from scratch when the transtasman league came into being in 2008, Hoornweg believes that experience will be invaluable when it comes to establishing a new elite team in Auckland.
Today's news follows a flurry of announcements yesterday, with the Steel revealing they have secured the services of Jamaican import Jhaniele Fowler-Reid for another season.
The 1.98m super shooter had been the target of rival Australian franchises, but opted to return to the Steel for a fifth season in Invercargill.
The Mainland Tactix have also made a key re-signing, with coach Sue Hawkins retained for a further two seasons, while the NSW Swifts have locked Rob Wright in for a further four years.