How supercoach turned Lightning into winners
SUNSHINE Coast master coach Noeline Taurua is a bona fide netball trophy magnet and a busy mother of five.
After rapidly and remarkably transforming New Zealand from a Commonwealth Games basket case to 2019 World Cup champions, Taurua begins her last finals campaign with the Lightning on Saturday.
She will head back to New Zealand after the Super Netball season but has left an indelible mark on the Sunshine Coast with two titles in the club's first two seasons, and a minor premiership in their third year.
The crafty Kiwi talks about what makes the Lightning tick.
With two grand final wins in your first two seasons and a minor premiership in your third, the success of the Lightning must have exceeded your expectations?
Absolutely it has. Because we started from nothing. Literally nothing. Things you take for granted when you take over a coaching job like netballs and bibs, we didn't have. We didn't even have paperclips. So I'm amazed by how far this club has come in a short time. The work that has been done behind the scenes has been truly remarkable. People have gone above and beyond.
What's been the key element of the Lightning culture that has allowed you to be so successful, so quickly?
Right from the start, we were really mindful of being a team the whole community could be proud of. We had to be accessible, we had to have people who were low maintenance, we needed people with a great work ethic because we were starting from nothing. That gave us a foundation, a cornerstone. Bottom line, we want to be proud of everything we do on and off the court.
The New Zealand team was a basket case after the Commonwealth Games, where they lost to Malawi and finished out of the medals for the first time ever. How did you turn it around so quickly to be world champions inside 18 months?
It was similar to the Lightning in that we had to start from ground zero. We talked about the things that hadn't gone well at the Commonwealth Games and previous events and there were lots of learnings. We addressed all that and brought people in from inside and outside the club system that had the knowledge we needed, and everybody bought into the collective. The Constellation Cup and Quad Series tournaments were like research. I needed to know what I had.
Sounds like a good old-fashioned Kiwi ambush?
Oh no, it wasn't anything like that. It was quite painful at times and there was some heavy going for a while but we were able to put it all together for a wee bit at the World Cup.
So the New Zealand cricket team were very unlucky to lose the World Cup final to England and the Silver Ferns won the netball World Cup. How will the All Blacks go at the rugby World Cup?
You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself because other countries are nipping at our heels. There's always the expectation they will win but the improvement in other nations means the All Blacks have to work hard to stay on top. We certainly haven't been as dominant as previous years.
Are you seriously trying to paint the All Blacks as underdogs?
Laughs) Never! I'm just saying that a few losses in recent times might be good for us. I think we'll still win, but we can't take anything for granted.
How does being a Mum make you a better coach?
I suppose I think what would I expect from a coach if my daughter or son was in a sporting team. You care for people - and to some degree, love them - but you have to be clear with them about why they are there. I just try to get a better understanding of the players because they are people before they are netballers and they have their own strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. They can be subtle and you have to take time to work out what it all means so you can earn their trust and respect.
"Happy people make happy netballers" is your motto, isn't it?
Absolutely. And it's not always about life being rosy all the time. It's about developing their ability to handle the negatives and providing them with support so they work their way through. Netball is only a small part of your life but the life skills you learn at netball can serve you well, long after you retire.
Supermum or supercoach? Which title means more?
Oh God! I'm definitely not either of those things. I do say to my kids that I am "Mother of the Year" and they look at me funny. But in both respects, I try my best and I have learned not to be so hard on myself and that it's OK to ask for help, it's OK to ask somebody else to take the lead, and it's OK to let go. I'm comfortable with the fact that I can't control everything and you can only worry about the things you can control.
You played 34 Tests for New Zealand between 1994 and 1999. What sort of player were you?
I could have been better, hey. There's a lot of "if only", "could of", "should of" type of regrets.
Has that shaped what sort of coach you are today?
It has. I was a shorter sort of goal attack and I was always told that I was short. I knew that, it wasn't like I was going to grow. I just wish somebody had told me sooner what I was good at and focused on my strengths, which was my speed and the ability to create and innovate. There wasn't a lot of focus on that. It was only towards the end, I worked it out for myself and it was too late.
Did you always think you would end up as a coach?
No. Never. It was never a career path or a career choice when I was playing. Being a player, I was always so focused on that. I just sort of fell into it after wandering around for a while.
You've decided that this season will be your last at the Lightning so you can head back to New Zealand and spend more time with your family. What will you miss most about the Sunshine Coast?
Wow. A lot of things. Definitely the weather, the lifestyle, the chill factor. The people are just great and they have been so welcoming to me and my family.
What can netball do better to help the sport take another step in the right direction?
There's quite a few things actually. We have made massive strides, especially in Suncorp Super Netball, with the professionalism which happens on and off the court but you can always improve and one area is the presentation on game day. You want it to be a real game day experience with heaps of entertainment, a bit like the basketball. Really package it all up so the game itself is just part of the reason why people come out.
QUICK OFF THE MARK
First car: Holden Torana
Favourite musical artist: David Bowie
Coffee order: Skinny cappuccino
Favourite book you read to your kids? The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Who plays Noeline Taurua in "Noeline Taurua: The Movie''? What the hell, get Angelina Jolie
Sporting hero: John Walker (New Zealand 1500m runner and Olympic gold medallist)
If you were down to your last $10, what would you spend it on? Oh God, I hope it never gets to that.
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