28 Feb 2021

Netball: Trailblazing coach wired into the Northern Mystics

11:11 pm on 28 February 2021

Australian coach Rob Wright wants to add a point of difference to the Northern Mystics this year, but he doesn't want it to be about the fact he's a bloke.

Rob Wright coach of the NSW Swifts with the team during the former trans-Tasman ANZ Netball competition.

Rob Wright coach of the NSW Swifts with the team during the former trans-Tasman ANZ Netball competition. Photo: Photosport

The experienced Australian coach was announced as assistant coach at the Northern Mystics late last year.

Wright, who became a student of the game watching it as a kid, is widely regarded as one of the game's most strategic minds.

Mystics head coach Helene Wilson will be hoping he can give her side an edge, in the team's quest to lift the ANZ Premiership trophy.

Wright will be New Zealand's first male coach at the elite level but he's always been a big believer that it should be around his coaching ability.

Wright said if his appointment at the Mystics inspired other male coaches in New Zealand that was great, but it wasn't what drove him.

"I never wanted to be known as 'oh it's that male coach who got that role' I wanted to be known as a really good netball coach, not a really good male netball coach if that makes sense," Wright said.

"So I think you have to really make sure that you really know your stuff, that you earn respect and that takes time."

Wright becomes animated as soon as he talks about netball. You can see him actively process information, like a computer crunching the numbers.

And it's a medium he's having to communicate through as he waits to find out when he can get to New Zealand.

Wright's at every session through a computer screen.

"I'm actually wired into the coaches so they can speak to me and I can speak directly to them and I can speak to the players through the computer.

"It makes you have to be really succinct when you're not there if you're trying to explain something. It's new but I'm loving it. I always like trying to make people better and I'm hoping I can make a real impact there."

The aim was for Wright to land in New Zealand on the 25th January but there's still no sign of when he's going to be able to get into the country given the situation with Covid-19.

The Northern Mystics are working hard to try to get Wright in with the help of Netball New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand.

"The coaches and the organisation's embraced me. The players have been wonderful in terms of just taking me for who I am. I'm a bit odd at times, see things a bit differently but I also hope I can make some real gains for them."

In 2014 Wright created history becoming the first male head coach in the old trans-Tasman netball league when he took over at the New South Wales Swifts.

Mystics huddle. 2020.

The Northern Mystics huddle. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Wright guided the Swifts to two successive grand finals in 2015 and 2016, just narrowly missing out to the Queensland Firebirds both times.

He later took charge of the Collingwood Magpies in 2019, but it was an unhappier time for Wright at the franchise.

Last year the Magpies finished last in Australia's Suncorp Super Netball competition and Wright paid the price when the club dropped him.

Wright said he had no problem with that outcome.

"At the end of the day, the results were poor, they're on me and I paid the price for that. What I think is really important though is if you don't win you've got to make sure you learn. You either win or you learn is my philosophy …what it does is make you reflect really hard about what have I learnt.

"Certainly I would have done a lot of things very differently to what I actually did so that's a good reflection for me about how I improve. And it was certainly a tough time for me, certainly after 19', and 2020 to be brutally honest was a disaster for me and that was of my own making. I'd set it up and you know I'd set myself up for failure."

Wright said his gut feeling was that it wouldn't be the end of his coaching career.

"I always think that things happen for a reason ...I get moved on and I then go 'well I learn and grow and be better for the next opportunity that arises' and I'm very thankful for the Mystics giving me that opportunity."

Wright said hard work and perseverance has got him to where he is, and he's grateful to mentors who helped him over his career.

"I know I don't know everything, nowhere near it so I learn and I grow and I ask lots of questions."

Wright said he didn't hesitate, when the opportunity arose to coach the across the ditch.

"I will look for opportunity where I can use my skills. If people want to under-estimate me or whatever I really love that because I always say 'look out' because to me I just want to be the very best I can and I never compare myself to other people I just want to be good and I want to help people."

Wright loves the hands on approach to coaching. He said the bonus of being an assistant coach was that he got to be creative and "come up with stuff that I just come up the top of my head with".

"Often as the head coach there's a whole lot of other things that get in the way of that really good stuff. It's super important and critical to make the whole process work."