When I reflect on what the Australian Diamonds have achieved in 2015, it’s been a mammoth year for netball in general.
Of course, winning the Netball World Cup – our third in a row and 11th overall – in Sydney stands out as the highlight.
We also retained the Constellation Cup for the third straight year to finish our international campaign.
Adding to Australia’s great history and success is forefront in the minds of all athletes, coaches and support staff in the team and is what continues to motivate us every day.
That, along with representing the entire Australian netball community as best as we can.
Last week’s Australian Netball Awards was a fitting occasion to celebrate the achievements of 2015.
For me, a highlight was being in the presence of four other coaches that have led Australian teams to victories at the Netball World Cup in Joyce Brown, Wilma Shakespear, Jill McIntosh and Hall of Fame inductee Norma Plummer.
Between that group we’ve claimed nine world titles. That is saying something about the extraordinary achievements of this sport and the coaches it produces.
I am humbled in their company and marvel at the legacy they have created.
This award is all about the pursuit of excellence and seeking to learn more about coaching, not just purely results.
At the end of the day, Joyce and I understand that coaching at this level is about results and that is why Australia is number one in the world.
The Hall of Fame inductees Norma and Marcia Ella-Duncan are both wonderfully strong women who have led the way in our great game in their own unique style.
Both have persisted in the game even when the knockers have come calling and shown enormous self-belief with the odds stacked against them.
Norma was my state coach for two years and I have never enjoyed training and working hard more than under her guidance.
She believed in me at a time when I was needing that guidance.
Norma was one of the reasons why Victoria won the national title in Darwin in 1986. It was the state’s first national title for quite some years.
Interestingly, out of that team came eight coaches – Sue Hawkins, Simone McKinnis, Roselee Jencke, Gillian Lee, Jane Searle, Di Honey, Cathy Gillespie and myself. The current Netball NT chief executive Shelley Haynes was also part of that side.
I also coached against Norma in my early years of coaching in Victoria’s State League as well as in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy the season I was in charge at the Melbourne Kestrels and she was with our cross-town rivals Melbourne Phoenix.
A mastermind coaching competitor, I relished the opportunity to pit my coaching skills against this absolute legend of our game.
The inspirational Marcia Ella-Duncan was, quite simply, one of my sporting idols in netball.
That she has contributed so much to netball after her albeit brief International career is a credit to her giving nature and her innate leadership.
Marcia was a gifted athlete and most graceful mover on the netball court. She invented the `run-all-day’ centre court play and had a beautiful one-handed passing ability.
It looked almost like a rugby pass but never went backwards.
Our other major award winners included Sharni Layton (Australian ANZ Championship Player of the Year) and Caitlin Bassett, who won International Player of the Year and the coveted Liz Ellis Diamond.
Both have taken continual leaps forward in their training and preparation in the last couple of years and deserve to be recognised for their performances this year.
I also recognise and congratulate all the other award winners on the night Roselee Jencke, Sharon Kelly, Kate Shimmin and Pam Smith.
I also congratulated Janine Southby on her recent appointment as head coach of the New Zealand Silver Ferns. She will continue to add to their great tradition and I understand how truly blessed she feels at this time.
While on that, I also pay tribute to my great rival and the most recent Silver Ferns coach Wai Taimaunu.
She is a legend of netball in New Zealand and a most gracious representative of her country. Wai you will be missed.
Two other coaches will be missed this year in Carole Sykes and Sally McLean. Both passionate netball coaches and absolute supporters of Australian netball. Rest in peace.
I am now on my annual leave to refresh and regenerate myself for the next year ahead.
Thank you all for your support this year.