Janine Southby was on the right track as Silver Ferns coach and should be encouraged to reapply for the job.
Southby quit as Ferns coach last week ahead of the public release of the review into her team's Commonwealth Games fourth placing. No doubt she got a heads-up on the the report and felt her position was untenable.
But was it?
One of the key critiques in the review was that Southby adopted a player-led culture. It didn't work, the review said, because too many senior players had retired and the rest were not "battle-hardened"; the young team needed a more "directional" approach.
That finding goes against all modern research into high performance systems. Southby – described by the review as deep thinker and thoroughly prepared – was taking the right steps and deserved more support from Netball New Zealand.
If you've got any doubts about Southby's philosophy of empowering players and giving them responsibility for their own destiny, just look at the opposite approach.
New Zealand women's football coach Andreas Heraf is on special leave after he faced rebellion from his players. At worst, Heraf is accused of bullying and harassment, at best his dictatorial coaching philosophy is apparently what the Silver Ferns need right now.
That came hot on the wheels of a review into track cycling that found disgraced coach Anthony Peden was domineering to the point of bullying.
Those controversies drove Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin to state New Zealand's high performance environment was too focused on a "command and control" culture. The overwhelming view from experts is that modern coaches need to give more power to athletes and trust them to help co-create the high performance culture. That's just what Southby was doing and it's a crying shame she's been hounded out of the sport for doing so.
The coaching philosophy aside, it seems Netball NZ would prefer to bury the Games fiasco – with NNZ chief executive Jennie Wyllie saying: "closure [is] required for the 12 players and the management who went to the Commonwealth Games. A process will be put in place in order for them all to move on."
That's wrong. No lessons learned, no resilience built, no growth from adversity. Just put the dirty dishes in the cupboard and shut the door.
The irony is that the best sports team in the world over the past decade did just the opposite when faced a similar disaster.
The review of the All Blacks' ugly quarterfinal exit at the 2007 Rugby World Cup found coach Graham Henry had the right idea about player rest and rotation – but it was executed badly leaving the team underdone and lacking in confidence when it came to World Cup knock-out matches. There are parallels to Southby here – right idea, badly executed.
Plenty thought Henry should have been kicked down a dark alley but New Zealand Rugby trusted him to learn from his mistakes – and we know how that turned out.
A large chunk of that 2007 report focused on leadership and player responsibility. While praising the All Blacks for creating a shared-responsibility leadership model, involving the coaches, management and players, the review noted that it hadn't gone far enough – specifically the players were incapable of making the right decisions on the field to give themselves the best chance of winning the game.
The report specifically mentioned "the role of adversity in creating leaders and winning teams" and recommended future programmes should create an environment where leadership skills are developed on the job.
This sounds what Southby was trying to achieve with the Silver Ferns. She extended her trust to the players and it's a shame Netball New Zealand couldn't have done the same for her.
Whether Southby is the best coach available is a moot point but there's not exactly an army of candidates storming the walls at NNZ headquarters. Southby's compass was pointed in the right direaction – it's just that her players were too young and inexperienced to make it work. Well, now they are older and more experienced (battle-hardened to use the review's term). With the right support and a tweak to the coaching structure plenty of lessons could have been learned from the adversity they've been through.
The risk now is that unlike the All Blacks, the Silver Ferns will learn nothing.