Has any Australian Diamonds player in history polarised opinion more than Gretel Tippett?
An article we posted on social media last week about the battle for the Diamonds’ goal attack bib sparked an avalanche of responses about who Australia’s first-choice GA should be.
Safe to say that Tippett was not at the top of that list, with most respondents indicating they’d have Steph Wood, Susan Pettitt, Tegan Philip, or even non-selected veteran Nat Medhurst as their number one.
But wow. Just wow. The number of netball fans who were eager to finish their point with some scathing remarks about Tippett was staggering.
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Clearly the Firebirds star won herself no fans with her blatant two-handed shove in the back that sent Vixens opponent Jo Weston sprawling when the two teams faced off during the Suncorp Super Netball season. And fair enough, too – unsporting acts have no place in our game.
But the weight of opinion and vitriol against her clearly has something more to it.
Is it that, as Australians, we only like to see netball played in a certain way? The same way we’ve played it for generations? That we want our goal attacks to purely be speedy Energizer Bunnies who break the game open with their dash, and draw defenders away by sweeping the circle relentlessly in front of C-Bass or whoever happens to be in the goal shooter bib?
Tippett’s game style isn’t for everyone, with those lay-up goals, sometimes wayward passing and unorthodox shooting style unlikely to ever curry favour with the netball purists. But could you, as a coach, live with a few errors and a bit of unpredictability if her presence on court gave your team a decent dose of X-factor, while giving the opposition team major headaches and matchup issues?
Lisa Alexander is clearly far more qualified than all of us to be making assessments about players’ elite talent and value. And with Alexander having picked Tippett as the starting GA against England this week, and then turning to her again when things didn’t quite click with Philip in the starting bib against South Africa, it’s clear where Tippett ranks amongst the Diamonds brains trust.
And when a recent round table discussion between a group of coaches and a Suncorp assistant coach turned to the topic of Tippett, the clear indication was that if Tippett was available, this coach/team would take her in a heartbeat.
The obvious argument in Tippett’s favour is one that should resonate for selectors at all levels when it comes time to picking their next team: she has skills and physical attributes that others don’t – and that you can’t teach. Coaches are quite clearly very prepared to accept her deficiencies because of the other things that she brings to the table – both tangible and intangible.
It’s something that we’ll be taking into consideration more than ever when it comes time to conduct trials and selections at our various clubs later this year: trying to identify players who bring something to the table that other players don’t have, and who have attributes that can’t be taught, or are very difficult to teach.
For the record, we’re not in one corner or the other on the Tippett issue.
Tippett isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but she’s got people talking about netball, and that can only be a good thing!