Former Australian player Nicole Richardson is giving back to one of the sports that gave her the opportunity to forge an international career.
Not only is Richardson – who played 32 Tests for Australia between 1999 and 2003 – still involved with the game in a coaching capacity at virtually every level, she’s been appointed as a selector for the Australian 21/U program for the next two years.
She joins the selection panel that consists of new 21/U coach Tania Obst and Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander.
Richardson will be taking a close look at the best up-and-coming talent at next week’s 21/U National Netball Championships in Adelaide and said she’s thrilled to take on the responsibility.
“Not only are we trying to identify the up-and-coming talent initially for the 21/U team, but also look at athletes who have the potential to go on and become Diamonds,” Richardson said.
“I made the transition from athlete to coach and saw this role as a selector as another opportunity to get a foot into Netball Australia’s pathway.
“It was always exciting to wear the green and gold and represent my country as a player. Now to have been given the responsibility of choosing the next crop of athletes to do that is exciting and I’m looking forward to the challenge and sitting on the panel with Tania, Lisa and Michelle.
“They’re all great coaches. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next two years hold and the opportunities it creates for future Diamonds players.”
Richardson is currently the Coach Development Co-ordinator at Netball Victoria, having worked for many years in the role as High Performance Co-ordinator.
She is coaching the Victorian 19/U side at next month’s national championships, having led the state’s 17/U team to last year’s national title. She also coaches teams at State League level and in local competitions.
Richardson served as an assistant coach with the Victorian Fury in last year’s Australian Netball League and said the new role as a 21/U selector would also assist with her long-term aspirations to coach at a higher level.
“Not only will it help develop me as a coach, but it strengthens my knowledge and understanding of what Netball Australia are looking for in regards to athletes at that level,” Richardson said.
“I’m also finishing off my High Performance Coaching Accreditation and I’m looking to progress my coaching. I thought putting my hand up (for 21/U selector position) would enhance my future opportunities in a head coaching role at a higher level.”
Richardson is one of an elite group of athletes who represented Australia at pinnacle events in different sports.
In her netball career, she was part of Australia’s famous triumphant 1999 World Championship team and 2002 Commonwealth Games Gold Medal winning side. She was also part of the squad that won silver at the 2003 world championships.
She’s also an Olympic Games bronze medallist – as part of the Australian women’s softball team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
“It’s something I’m very proud of,” Richardson said of her dual international honour.
“I was very fortunate to have a great support base of family and friends around me who supported me and encouraged me to strive for my goals. That was really important.
“One thing that really attracted me to the coaching side was making sure our young, up-and-coming athletes were given every opportunity to reach their potential.”
Netball Australia’s Head of High Performance Carol Byers said Richardson’s playing and coaching experience would complement her new role.
“Nicole has strengthened her high performance coaching skills by coaching from academy levels right through to the ANL and is working to achieve her high performance coaching accreditation,” Byers said.
“She also brings to the program the unique experience of having been a high performance athlete, not just as an Australian netballer, but also as an Olympic bronze medallist in softball.
“She offers a wealth of experience to our up-and-coming athletes about the expectations required to succeed at that elite level.”
Photos: Courtesy of Daniel Hambu and Netball Victoria.