Taurua ready for Netball World Cup challenge
Noeline Taurua has fashioned an outstanding career through her ability to produce successful teams.
The Silver Ferns coach now preparing for the ultimate challenge as she looks to resurrect the fortunes of the women in black at the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 in Liverpool.
Affable and easy-going, the Silver Ferns mentor is a meticulous planner, blessed with an intuitive touch of what’s required to create a selfless, expressive, principled, willing and competitive team environment both on and off the court.
Guiding Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and the Southern Steel to titles in New Zealand followed by the Sunshine Coast Lightning, in Australia, Taurua is without peer in the formidable reputation she has built at elite domestic level.
That focus has shifted direction over the last year with her appointment as Silver Ferns coach and the opportunity to showcase her credentials at international level.
It has also created a unique set of circumstances for Taurua, who has been juggling twin roles as coach to both the Silver Ferns and Lightning in what was seen by many as the most daunting of prospects. For Taurua, however, it’s been like water off a duck’s back, the bigger the challenge, the more she thrives.
Not always conventional, the mother of five has a creative outlook to coaching which has made her a popular figure with players. Now, after a stringent selection process, Taurua has settled on her World Cup 12 for netball’s showpiece event and putting the pieces in place to get the best out of her Silver Ferns.
A realist, Taurua has put in a mountain of work behind the scenes to create the building blocks of a strong team foundation, from both a physical and unity sense. But there is also a competitive streak that runs deep.
“It’s often said that you’re only as good as your last experience and for us that’s based on the Commonwealth Games (2018) and finishing fourth,” she said.
“I’m realistic about that. There’s a massive shift that needs to happen for us to even be in the top four and from that experience we’re not guaranteed. In the past, it was just assumed or taken for granted that we would be in the final.
“That’s not there anymore but for me personally, as a coach, and a New Zealand coach, it would be remiss if I didn’t think we would be going for gold. That’s what it’s all about and I never see anything less. I always see that we’re out there to win.
“I see gold but I also know the stages that need to happen and what we need to do for us to even present as gold medallists, let alone finalists. I know what needs to happen behind the scenes and what we need to be able to demonstrate on court to be in contention and I’m not shying away.”
As history has often shown, sport is a great leveller where nothing is guaranteed and Taurua is well aware of the variables that can pop up at any given time. For her, being well prepared is the key that can help change the course of events.
“You’ve got to take the opportunities when they present and if you don’t it’s like sitting and waiting for the bus,” she said.
“We’ve got to be savvy, have that passion, the fight and all those intangible things that are going to get us over the line.
“It’s not necessarily about strategy or play because at the end, we all know how to play but it generally comes down to that heart and that passion. That’s the area that we’ve got to get ourselves into and can demonstrate in every game that we play.
“That means it’s an integration of everything, our planning, our strategy, our ability to be able to demonstrate the behaviours that are required for performance. It’s our recovery, it’s our food….all those little things that’s going to make a difference and for everybody to be prepared and commit to enter into that space.
“We’re there to win and we want to put the pride back into the Silver Fern and netball in New Zealand. At the end of the day, that’s just as big a prize. And that comes down to how we play the game, which is huge and instrumental to whether we’re seen as a success or not.”
Following the selection of the team and completion of the ANZ Premiership, the full focus for the Silver Ferns World Cup build-up began in earnest with a camp on the Sunshine Coast (June 16-21) and the Cadbury Netball Series against the Fiji Pearls, New Zealand Invitational Men’s team and an All Stars side (June 26-29).
Joining forces for the first time since selection at the Sunshine Coast camp was the start of `building’ the team which involved strategy, routines, best practice and bringing it all together as fast as possible.
“We then get to test it all out in real time during the Cadbury Series,” Taurua said.
The New Zealanders may have a small advantage up their sleeve after being able to enjoy a longer preparation time than most of the other teams who did not get their players back from the Australian competition until mid-June.
“I would like to think it will be an advantage if we’re clear and smart about it,” Taurua said.
“Our players had time to have a rest after the ANZ Premiership but those playing in the Australian competition didn’t. They went straight back into their international teams.
“Even though it’s only a couple of weeks, it gave us time to load the body with day-to-day or repeated efforts. It has given us a little bit more time than any other team, so it was about being smart in how we used that time. That’s why the emphasis all along has been on the fitness base, so that we can build. If you don’t have that base, you can’t build.”
Specialist skills sessions conducted by former Silver Ferns Yvonne Willering, Marg Foster and Donna Wilkins coupled with a focus on increasing aerobic capacity were key components for aspiring World Cup contenders during a busy ANZ Premiership.
“The hope from all of that was to provide an understanding of what to expect once we got together but in a way that wasn’t destructive to what was required within their own (franchise) team,” Taurua said.
“It has been full-on for the players but acknowledgment also of the time frame. We were always on the back foot with me coming in late and wanting to play a certain style of game.
“It was about having athletes that were physically capable of playing the style that I want to play and also because we play differently in New Zealand with our zone style. What we meet from the other international teams is going to be different, so it was also about getting used to the physicality side of things.
“Players have improved from where we started to where they ended. It may not have been huge from an on-court spectacle but behind the scenes there’s been massive shifts. So, overall, as a collective group they’ve done really well.
“As long as we keep improving with our intent and we shift, that’s all I can possibly ask. Individuals have done all they can to get to this stage, now we’ve just got to bring it together as a group.”