McKINNIS STILL ON THE RISE
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