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Leona Collins coaching netball players / Netball Australia

The first week of March saw an historic meeting of netball coaching talent take place in Suva, Fiji, supported by PacificAus Sports.

The three-day workshop was an opportunity for Netball Fiji’s top coaches to meet with specialist high-performance training staff from Netball Australia (NA) in an exchange of knowledge that promised to enrich coaching practices in Fiji, and ultimately improve pathways for Fijian netballers to compete at the highest level.

“Netball Australia's experience and netball legacy is unmatched and [our coaches] are motivated to learn from NA’s coaches, experiences, organisational structure and processes to ensure our growth and sustainability,” said Maria Bereso Ah Sam, coach of the Cakaudrove Bua Macuata (CBM) Netball Club and one of six Fijian coaches taking part.

Diverse perspectives, shared strengths

Designed by NA’s First Nations Engagement Lead, Kamilaroi woman Ali Tucker-Munro, the Our Way – Our Style workshop was specifically focussed on how coaching practices and playing styles are shaped by local contexts, and how coaches can use the unique strengths of their players’ community and culture to strengthen their coaching strategies.

The workshop was delivered by Matt Mulcahy, NA Head of Performance and Wellbeing, Anita Keelan, NA Head Coach Pathways, and three First Nations coaches: Mandandanji – Yuwaalaraay woman Leona Collins from Netball QLD; Kamilaroi woman Natalee George from Netball ACT; and Pinterrairer – Tanganutara woman Fiona Geappen from Netball TAS.

The local coaches attending the workshop came from cities and villages across the Fijian islands, and represented junior, senior, women’s and men’s teams. Among them was Una Rokoura, head coach of the Fijian Pearls, who remarked after the workshop that the concept of integrating culture into the coaching space was something she was keen to start implementing. Iliseva Drasuna, assistant coach of Fiji’s Under-21 team, agreed.

“This workshop was an eye opener,” she said. “There was so much learning involved. My biggest takeaway was how we can design pathways for the development of our athletes that suit our country and which will ultimately lift the level of the sport here in Fiji.” 

Una Rokoura / Netball Australia
Anita Keelan / Netball Australia

Recognising and celebrating culture

The workshop was the inaugural event of a new initiative from Netball Australia, the First Nations Coaching Course program. At the program launch, leaders from NA’s state and territory bodies celebrated the First Nations coaches selected to take part in the pilot, and the value they will bring to players and professional colleagues in Australia and beyond.

“There is so much talent within our First Nations community and this course brings this fact to the fore,” said Netball South Australia CEO, Bronwyn Klei.

The success of the workshop in Suva was evidence of the program’s potential for impact, and an insight into how the recognition and embrace of culture could enhance the game across the Pacific.

“Sometimes we tend to forget where we're from and how our culture is embedded in us,” said Iliseva. “This workshop was a great reminder that we in the Pacific have very strong culture and traditions that we could use to elevate us individually. Of all the workshops we've had in Fiji, this would have been the most emotional and connective one I've attended, which shows the similarities that we have with the First Nations coaches.” 

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