Sports Call: Noeline Taurua may not return to coaching at all

5:18 am on 22 August 2019

Analysis - Netball New Zealand announced yesterday that post the euphoria of the World championship win in Liverpool in July, Taurua will stick around for two more series, but beyond that they've been unable to pin her down to a long-term deal.

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018

Can you imagine netball without Noeline Taurua? Well, we may have to.

After winning the Netball World Cup in July she may walk away from netball coaching completely in pursuit of other "challenges".

Is it any surprise that one of New Zealand's most successful coaches going around wants to explore her options?

Not really.

She won back-to-back titles in the toughest domestic league in the world with the Sunshine Coast Lightning and is on track for a three-peat.

Then to resurrect an international side to its former glory after failing to even qualify for the Commonwealth Games finals a year earlier was beyond anyone's comprehension, arguably the best in our sporting history.

But while the nation continues to celebrate that almighty 52-51 Netball World Cup grand final win over Australia, Taurua hasn't stopped working.

"After the Netball World Cup, I came straight back (to Australia) on the Wednesday then I was back on court on Saturday," Taurua said.

"I need to be able to decide where I am in my life and if coaching is really what I want to do moving forward, and the only way I can really answer those questions is to be able to pull off and have the time to reflect."

Taurua will stand down as Lightning coach at the end of the season and only coach the Silver Ferns through to the end of January for October's Constellation Cup and the Northern Quad Series at the end of January - after that is anyone's guess.

One thing is for certain, home is calling.

"It's really exciting for me to put my feet on the land because when you are away you appreciate what New Zealand and the land means to you," Taurua said.

"We still have our family home in Waikato but the bones are in Auckland. There are also other opportunities, because of my father (Kingi Taurua, Ngāpuhi) that may present."

The idea of Taurua back on our shores would have initially excited the Netball New Zealand (NNZ).

NNZ chief executive Jennie Wyllie offered Taurua a contract up until 2023 which would have seen her lead the Silver Ferns past the 2022 Commonwealth Games and to defend the 2023 World Cup title in South Africa.

It was an offer Taurua declined, for now anyway.

"I would obviously love to have Noeline around for the remainder of the campaign through till 2023 but I also know she has given her all to the Sunshine Coast and to us for the last couple of years," Wyllie said.

"It's time for her to have a break and we just need to respect that and when the time is right we'll be able to talk about what the future might look like."

Netball NZ CEO Jennie Wyllie determined to commemorate NZ's centenary netball year

Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018

Although Taurua felt guilty turning down Wyllie's offer of a four-year extension, she explains how being in a position to finally shape her career around family wasn't the only reason why she couldn't accept the deal.

The 51-year-old admits she doesn't know if the idea of a Commonwealth Games gold medal excites her, and even the challenge of defending the world cup wasn't enough for her to sign on for four more years.

So why would someone who missed out twice previously on the top netball job in New Zealand only to get it third time around now decide it's not what she wants?

She is committed to the Ferns for the Constellation Cup and the Northern Quad series but 12 months in her "dream job" has taught her what she is truly passionate about.

"An international role is different to club. What I have always loved as head coach is I'm on the ground coaching week in week out and you have players 7-8 months of the year so growing them is huge - that's what I love about being a coach," Taurua said.

"International is a shorter time, you have to pull them together sometimes a week before you have an international match so it's about getting the combinations right not the actual coaching because you got what you got.

"It's a different feel to me and it takes away the elements that I really enjoy in doing the work with the players, so I don't know really I would go but I will know once I have the time to rest."

While she contemplates future endeavours she assured me she's "not going through any mid-life crisis," and laughs.

She reiterates she just loves to be challenged: "that's what gets my juices running."

Decades of work within the confines of domestic and international netball has left Taurua wondering if there is anything else she can do with her life.

She's reached the pinnacles in her eyes. Her coaching prowess has seen nearly every team she touches turn to gold, literally, but it's a feat that no longer lights up Taurua's path.

"Sometimes I think is there anything else I can do with my life?

"Not disrespecting the opportunities that have existed, but I'm in that phase of my life where 'Can I do anything else?' so I need to see what I need to do."

"Up until my appointment with New Zealand I have done everything I can possibly do and have been challenged so that's what I'm looking for is that challenge and the ability to learn."

Coach Noeline Taurua celebrating 2nd consecutive Australian domestic title win

Coach Noeline Taurua celebrating 2nd consecutive Australian domestic title win Photo: DCimages | Daniel Carson

Wyllie describes Taurua as a woman with great "mana" which is probably why Netball New Zealand have agreed to give Taurua time after January to contemplate what she wants to do hoping she'll extend her contract again.

Taurua's commitment to stay on for these five months was made just prior to the Netball World Cup and appears to be done so to give the organisation time to find a replacement should she not return.

"I was always committed to transitioning the program no matter what even though I had already signed for a certain period," Taurua said.

"We both came to the agreement of knowing that for me to finish or go to the end of January was going to be helpful for NNZ, if I'm not there long-term, to go through a recruitment process."

"I feel I have so many transferable skills and I have been involved in sporting organisations from the ground and even though I haven't done the board thing - I know the mechanics of any organisation."

After missing out on the top job in 2015, Taurua said in an interview with with E-Tangata that she questioned why she wanted the role.

"There were a few times when I thought 'Why am I doing this?' Like any other person, if you miss out on a job, you still think you should have got it.

"After a couple of months, it actually took me a while, I sat back and thought 'Why I do coach?' And I realised that I don't coach to be a New Zealand Silver Ferns coach. That's not the reason why I coach.... in hindsight, missing out has helped me go another level in my thinking."

It appears Taurua is at a crossroads once again. International coaching doesn't seem to tickle her fancy - not enough to commit to defend her hard work anyway.

She's always prided herself on a holistic-style approach. Discovering a player's full-personal potential then transferring it to the netball court but in this forum that's been near impossible to achieve.

Cue familiar leaders Laura Langman and Casey Kopua to spread the message.

Living in New Zealand could fill the void, but I get the feeling Taurua is on a journey to further develop herself rather than everybody else this time.

As a māmā (mother), a career woman, and proud Māori returning home after creating a slice of New Zealand sporting history, Taurua has reached her Silver Ferns goal and is about ready to make her mark from new heights.

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