Sunday Herald Sun - - Sport -

TWENTY years af­ter her re­tire­ment as a player, Si­mone McKin­nis’s stand­ing as one of Aus­tralia’s net­ball greats con­tin­ues to grow.

Widely con­sid­ered one of the best wing de­fence play­ers to take to a court, the Net­ball Aus­tralia Hall of Fame mem­ber has gone on to carve out a blos­som­ing coach­ing ca­reer that could one day see her re­turn to the Aus­tralian Di­a­monds as head coach.

McKin­nis, who took over the top job at Melbourne Vix­ens in 2013, has a con­tract with the Su­per Net­ball club un­til the end of next year and says she has not thought about the fu­ture too much be­yond that.

But the 53-year-old con­sid­ers her job one of the best around as she strives for more team suc­cess while help­ing de­velop the next gen­er­a­tion of Aus­tralian stars.

“I re­tired at the 1998 Com­mon­wealth Games and, lead­ing into this year’s Com­mon­wealth Games, it was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s been 20 years,’” McKin­nis said.

“I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily see my­self coach­ing, but I just en­joyed the im­pact and the in­flu­ence MAR­GARET COURT ARENA, TO­DAY, 3PM that you could have on oth­ers in their sport­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I love what I do, I love work­ing with my group and that’s about as far as I look.”

McKin­nis, who de­scribes her­self as an “old-fash­ioned” coach, spent time at the Sin­ga­pore Sports School Net­ball Academy and the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport be­fore land­ing at the Vix­ens as a spe­cial­ist coach in 2012 and tak­ing over the top job from Julie Hoorn­weg the fol­low­ing year.

A premier­ship was de­liv­ered in 2014 be­fore a side re­fresh, the re­sults of which are now brightly shin­ing through af­ter the young side fin­ished as mi­nor pre­miers last sea­son.

“When I look at coach­ing the Vix­ens, this is my sixth year, and I feel like I still have a lot that I can con­trib­ute to this group,” McKin­nis said.

“We had some re­ally good, strong, ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers in the (2013) group with Bianca Chat­field and Sharelle (McMa­hon) and Geva (Men­tor).

“It has been a grad­ual build in bring­ing some of these new play­ers through with Kate Moloney, Liz Wat­son, Emily Man­nix. But we’ve got a re­ally good group of girls that have come through to­gether now and it’s all ahead for them.”

McKin­nis said while plenty had changed since her play­ing days, one thing that had not was the ri­valry be­tween Vic­to­ria and NSW.

That ri­valry will be in the spot­light again to­day when the Vix­ens take on NSW Swifts in Round 2 of the Su­per Net­ball sea­son, with the Sargean­tMcKin­nis Cup — named af­ter the Vix­ens coach and for­mer Aus­tralian cham­pion Anne Sargeant — on the line.

“I know it’s my name on it and ob­vi­ously Anne Sar­gent’s, but it’s more about re­flect­ing on the Vic­to­ria and NSW ri­valry over the years,” McKin­nis said.

“You’re great mates with play­ers from NSW and all that, but there’s al­ways a strong loy­alty to­wards your state.”

Melbourne Vix­ens coach Si­mone McKin­nis. Pic­tures: MICHAEL KLEIN, GE­ORGE SALPIGTIDIS

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