Walking into the Northern Stars' new Papakura base his first day on the job, chief executive Tim Hamilton's first task was to find himself a chair.

It was then that it dawned on Hamilton that starting a franchise from scratch really did mean starting from scratch.

The Stars are the only start-up club in the newly formed six-team elite netball league, known as the ANZ Premiership, established in the wake of last year's abrupt split in the transtasman league.

Hamilton, who has spent the past four seasons at the helm of the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, said the opportunity to build a club from the ground up was part of the appeal of taking on the job in Auckland.


He was handed a blueprint from the experienced Stars board that includes former Silver Ferns Louisa Wall and Julie Coney, former Mystics chief executive Mark Cameron and veteran broadcaster Bill Francis, and told, "Here it is, build it."

The veteran sports administrator knew it would be a challenge, but his first few months in the job have thrown plenty of unexpected curve balls at him.

"I think it is just when everything is new the checklists become a wee bit more significant," said Hamilton.

"I remember [operations manager] Dee Leggat looking at me and saying, 'Balls, we should probably get some of those,' and I was like, 'Yes, good point.'"

While some of the minor details may have been overlooked, Hamilton had the essential ingredients: a brand new training venue they can make their own; an experienced and passionate coach in Julie Hoornweg; and a team of young up-and-coming talent the South Auckland community can identify with and get behind.

The club has effectively been handed the keys to the High Wire Trust gymnasium in Papakura - a brand new, state-of-the-art facility which the Stars will have sole use of. The franchise will be closely aligned with the trust, which provides mentoring and pathways for at-risk youth in South Auckland.

"To grow and establish this organisation it is a fantastic springboard, so we're very grateful to the trust for enabling us to have it, because without it, it would be quite a different challenge I would imagine," said Hamilton.

"It probably is the only facility in the world that is dedicated for netball growth and development."

Hoornweg said the venue, which includes a training court, gym, team room and administrative offices, has been a "godsend" for her as she tries to build connections both on and off the court. Hoornweg, who was the inaugural coach of the Melbourne Vixens in the transtasman league, wanted to build a team the community could connect with as well.

She targeted young, up-and-coming players from the Auckland region who would help her deliver a "really fast, accurate game".

Kayla Cullen, Holly Fowler, Fa'amu Ioane and Sulu Fitzpatrick were recruited from crosstown rivals the Northern Mystics, young Silver Ferns shooter Maia Wilson returns to the region following a season with the Pulse, while Malia Vaka (nee Paseka) and Courtney Tairi join the team for the Magic.

Without a pre-established fanbase, Hoornweg said it would be important for the team to be closely involved with the local community.

"Our starting point was Auckland players where possible, so straight away [supporters] can identify with some of the athletes that are in the programme," said the veteran Australian coach.

"I'll be doing some work in the schools for the High Wire people, the girls are doing a walking bus for some of the local schools, so we'll start doing those sorts of things well."

In a team full of young talent on the fringes of the national squad and looking to make their mark, veteran defender Leana de Bruin, who was this week named captain of the Stars, admits she is "kind of the odd one out". But the 104-test Silver Fern, who will turn 40 at the end of the season, said she had been reinvigorated by the change of scene.

Having retired from international netball last year, de Bruin has been able to enjoy a full pre-season with her new franchise and has found herself challenged by Hoornweg's approach.

The team have only just got into strategy and match-play, with Hoornweg using the first six weeks of the programme to focus on agility, skill-work and conditioning.

"Julie's trainings are really intense, but the girls all seem to enjoy the challenges that she has been throwing at us," said de Bruin.

"We'll be playing a lot of warm-up matches over the next four weeks and I think that's when we'll see what we're really about."

Northern Stars


Leana de Bruin (captain), Kayla Cullen, Sulu Fitzpatrick, Holly Fowler, Fa'amu Ioane, Emma Iverson, Afa Rusivakula (FIJ), Courtney Tairi, Malia Vaka (nee Paseka), Maia Wilson.


Julie Hoornweg.

Assistant coach:

Temepara Bailey