With news of the Diamonds assistant coach roles being cast wide open in the past week, attention has turned from the recently named Diamonds squad to pondering who might be next in line to join the team’s coaching brains trust.
Regular writer Heath Brown looks at who could be in the frame to help Stacey Marinkovich take the Aussies back to the top of world netball.
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- by Heath Brown
Coaching gigs at the elite level are cut-throat.
Recent years have seen a ‘lazy Susan-like’ rotation through many franchises and teams as they search for results and the officials who will deliver them.
The Diamonds assistant role has been no different, with a bevy of predominantly ex-Diamonds fronting up for a year or two to show their wares, as the national team attempts to find that potent coaching combination to take them back to where Lisa Alexander had them for much of her tenure.
Here are the key questions to consider as Australia recruits for the roles, and how I think the next appointment of Diamonds’ assistants may play out.
COUNT THEM OUT
I think it’s safe to say Simone McKinnis is the frontrunner the next time the head coaching gig becomes vacant, and it is clear she has the backing of most prominent former Diamonds players.
For this reason I would guess she won’t be in the queue for the assistant jobs. Swifts coach Briony Akle is in a similar frame, and is widely being touted as a future Diamonds coach, so may wait that turn.
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I would also assume those that have already had a crack have chosen to exit for a reason and will not feature, including Clare McMeniman and Megan Anderson, who preceded Sharelle McMahon and Michelle den Dekker as former assistants.
YOUNG GUNS OR EXPERIENCED HEADS?
Lisa Alexander initially used experienced heads to keep the Diamonds at the top of the sport, and a pivot towards younger coaches didn’t reap the same rewards and hasn’t since. So will we see the return of some coaching elders rather than the in-favour newer kids on the block?
Julie Fitzgerald, Jane Woodlands-Thompson and Vicki Wilson are all experienced campaigners who could bring back some of those old school winning ways that have eluded the more recent Diamonds squads.
Could we see the first official appointment of a bloke into the Diamonds environment, which has historically only seen Rob Wright on a guest rotation.
The only contenders already in the elite space are Wright and Dan Ryan, but with the former in New Zealand winning titles and the latter returning home with a rumoured gig at West Coast Fever, there is unlikely to be a history-making men’s appointment.
INSIDER OR OUTSIDER
It goes without saying that most assistant picks are someone the head coach has worked with. Others prefer an outsider who has a totally different background in netball.
McMahon and den Dekker were graduates from the same high performance classes as Marinkovich, so history might suggest it comes from close to home.
Dan Ryan has strong links to the WA netball fraternity, so if he doesn’t show up in Fever colours maybe it will be in a darker shade of Aussie green and gold? Could we see Sue Gaudion finally answer our calls and go dual commentator and coach in a back to the future move for the former Aussie unders coach?
Do you pick one or two specialists, or do you go for generalists who can impact the full court performance?
Usually this is decided by the strengths of the head coach, and to pair them with someone who has skills in adjacencies to them.
Considering Stacey’s first picks were for a specialist at each end, could a Bec Bulley in defence, Nicole Richardson in midcourt or Vicki Wilson/Dan Ryan in attack get the nod? I personally have always found that having too many coaches, no matter how good they are, can muddy the message, so I’m hoping it’s only one coach picked.
I think it would be epic to have Gaudion back in the Aussie coaching ranks. She would get my top vote. Richardson could be considered the best specialist, and has a strong cultural connection to players that may mean an assistant role can double as a grooming for the top job.
Everything said, the assistant role is a big choice for coach Marinkovich. She was given the toughest of jobs to get the Diamonds back to winning big titles, in an era when world netball has caught up. Whoever it is, here’s hoping they get these Diamonds humming in the lead up to next year’s World Cup.
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