She has coached the world to beat the Silver Ferns and now Julie Fitzgerald is relishing the opportunity to take on her next challenge as Head Coach of the Kia Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
Fitzgerald has an impressive background in Australia coaching at all levels, and starting her ANZ Championship coaching career in 2008 by leading the NSW Swifts to the inaugural Championship title and named the Netball Australia Coach of the Year, a feat she accomplished four times in the past.
A stint as the World 7 Netball coach in 2009 resulted in that team beating the Silver Ferns.
Julie Fitzgerald has inherited a new-look and largely unproven Magic side for the 2014 ANZ Championship season but rather than see that as a negative, the Australian coach sees endless opportunities to develop a really strong team.
“It’s going to be interesting because virtually no-one in our attack end has played with anyone else in the attack end so there’s a lot of work to do there bringing the combinations together, but I’m excited with the players we’ve got in there.”
Mid-courters Grace Rasmussen, Samantha Sinclair and Courtney Tairi will be contesting for the attacking spots with each player bringing strengths and weakness to the table.
“I think Grace is at a crossroads in her career and I believe a change in environment will be good for her.”
“She’s got amazing talent and a great work ethic,” said Fitzgerald.
“And we’ve got Courtney Tairi who can play with Grace in the middle and we’ve also got Sam Sinclair who has come through the ranks.”
“I have a lot of time for her and she has an enormous amount of talent, so she’s another centre court option for us as well. I think the style of circle that we’ll play with someone like shooter Jo Harten will compliment Grace as well,” she said.
Fitzgerald has been over to New Zealand numerous times over the past few months most recently for the Lion Foundation National Championships in Dunedin and the FAST5 Netball World Series in Auckland.
“I’ve been here to watch our players in different teams and see what they’re doing and what areas we really want to work on when we get our hands on them,” Fitzgerald said.
I’ve also been looking out for what players are coming through in other teams in the junior ranks and things like that.”
“I obviously don’t have as much contact with the up-and-comers as I would like to, so every opportunity I get to watch the players is good.”
Fitzgerald is not one to force her coaching philosophies on a team, preferring to work with the raw talent and see how to get the best out of them.
“I’m certainly looking to build on what’s already been put in place here at the Magic.”
“I’m a great believer in that you don’t go in and coach a team to your style, you coach a team that compliments the strengths of the individual players that you’ve got, so we’ll be working to enhance the potential that they’ve already got.”
“To be smart you’ve always got to keep an eye on the others teams and what they’re up to as well because you always want to be one step ahead of them. But unless we get our act together of course, it’s not going to help us.”
Fitzgerald has big boots to fill replacing Noeline Taurua, the ANZ Championship’s most successful coach, who guided the Magic to the Finals Series each year since the competition’s inception in 2008.
“In the first year I definitely to see those combinations happening and hopefully create a culture where people really want to be a part of the Magic programme, in that they value being in the Magic and see the Magic as representing the Zone that they want to be a part of.”
With a good handful of ANZ Championship debutants in the squad, Fitzgerald is not content to let the youngsters warm the bench all season.
“The chances are that some of them will have to play and there are some positions where we don’t have a great deal of depth.”
“Obviously we want to develop players who can take the court anytime you need them so if you’re good enough to sign a contract, you’re good enough to take the court if needed,” she said.
Fitzgerald is the first Australian coach to take sole charge of a New Zealand team in the ANZ Championship and is honoured by the faith Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone has shown in her.
“I think it’s a mark of respect to both Australia and New Zealand and I’ll do the best that I possibly can for the Magic.”