CLASS A NOELS

‘HAPPY PEO­PLE MAKE HAPPY PLAY­ERS’ IS THIS COACH’S NUM­BER ONE STRAT­EGY, AND WITH THOSE WORDS SHE’S TRANS­FORMED THE LO­CAL SPORT­ING COM­MU­NITY

Life & Style Weekend - - COVER STORY - WORDS: AN­NIE CAUGHEY

For those who know her from the TV screen, she’s fierce, de­ter­mined and she’s the one at the top call­ing the shots.

But for those who know her per­son­ally, she’s warm, sup­port­ive and has a unique way of bring­ing out the best in those around her.

Noe­line Tau­rua is the head coach of the Sun­shine Coast Light­ning. She took on the job at the end of 2016 ahead of Light­ning’s in­au­gu­ral sea­son in 2017. She left be­hind her head coach­ing role at South­ern Steel in New Zealand, risk­ing it all for a chance to make his­tory.

And that she did.

The Sun­shine Coast Light­ning set a mark that is un­likely to be beaten by an en­try club, in any sport — win­ning two pre­mier­ships in their first two years of ex­is­tence.

Like many Ki­wis be­fore her, Noe­line is one of those tal­ents who we Aussies would love to claim, not only through­out her coach­ing ca­reer but also in her play­ing days.

She made her de­but play­ing for the New Zealand Sil­ver Ferns in 1994, played in the 1995 World Cup and the 1998

Com­mon­wealth Games.

She ad­mit­ted that as a player, she re­lied too heav­ily on her nat­u­ral tal­ent through­out her youth. As a coach,

Noe­line has de­vel­oped an in­tu­itive un­der­stand­ing into what mo­ti­vates and in­spires a player’s work ethic.

“My trade has been learnt through ex­pe­ri­ence as a player, through ob­serv­ing and the ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had with my pre­vi­ous coaches whether that be good or bad,” Noe­line said.

“I think as years have gone on, I’ve learnt to be more com­fort­able and con­fi­dent within my own skin. Knowing that my think­ing might be dif­fer­ent than the norms of what a

high-per­for­mance en­vi­ron­ment should be.” De­spite the loss of Aus­tralian Di­a­monds cap­tain Caitlin Bas­sett and mid-courter Kelsey Browne as well as de­fend­ing pow­er­house Geva Men­tor at the end of last sea­son, Light­ning has come into the 2019 Suncorp Su­per Net­ball sea­son main­tain­ing their rep­u­ta­tion as a pre­mier­ship side.

They cur­rently sit at num­ber two on the lad­der, with the same amount of wins as the com­pe­ti­tion leader the NSW Swifts. Al­though, what is per­haps even more im­pres­sive than Noe­line’s coach­ing suc­cess on pa­per, is her abil­ity to cre­ate a club cul­ture that is com­mu­nity spir­ited.

In the three years since Light­ning’s in­cep­tion, the club has gained a loyal fan base get­ting lo­cals well and truly hooked on net­ball.

The club has found a cer­tain type of fan, a fan that for the first two-and-a-half years would travel all the way to Bris­bane just to sup­port the girls at a home game. That type of con­nec­tion be­tween a com­mu­nity and a club doesn’t just fall to­gether, it is formed through hard work and a peo­ple-fo­cused at­ti­tude.

“When we came here, it was al­ways about the Sunny Coast and cre­at­ing a path­way where young play­ers can aspire to be­come an elite ath­lete,” Noe­line said.

“Ev­ery­thing we do, we do it to en­sure the peo­ple of the Sunny Coast have some­thing to be proud of and a club they would want to be­long to.

“I know it’s about what hap­pens on the score­board and whether you win or lose, but for me, it’s al­ways about some­thing big­ger.

“I have this say­ing that happy peo­ple make happy play­ers, and if they are more con­fi­dent and they’ve worked hard and they know where they are, then that in­flu­ences oth­ers in their lives, not nec­es­sar­ily just about net­ball.”

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of Net­ball Aus­tralia’s un­lim­ited im­port rule, Noe­line has cre­ated a team that is of­ten re­ferred to as a “league of na­tions”.

She has re­cruited New Zealand-born

Laura Lang­ham, Uganda’s Peace Proscovia, and two South African de­fen­sive tal­ents

Karla Pre­to­rius and Phumza Maweni.

It is this in­fu­sion of skill that con­trib­utes to Light­ning’s un­pre­dictable of­fen­sive strat­egy, agile mid-court and in­tim­i­dat­ing de­fen­sive third.

Noe­line said Light­ning has al­ways strived to cre­ate a point of dif­fer­ence be­tween it­self and other clubs within the com­pe­ti­tion.

“I think it adds to our style of play hav­ing peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries be­cause they bring with them dif­fer­ent styles, they bring a dif­fer­ent way of play­ing the game and I think that not only mys­ti­fies the game but brings an el­e­ment to our game that other teams don’t have,” she said.

“We ac­knowl­edge this as a strength in­stead of ev­ery­one hav­ing to con­form.”

With the start of the 2019 Net­ball World Cup yes­ter­day Noels will be di­rect­ing the Sil­ver Ferns who are cur­rently ranked fourth

EV­ERY­THING WE DO, WE DO IT TO EN­SURE THE PEO­PLE OF THE SUNNY COAST HAVE SOME­THING TO BE PROUD OF AND A CLUB THEY WOULD WANT TO BE­LONG TO

in the world fol­low­ing the team’s con­tro­ver­sial plac­ing at the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games.

With the hon­our that comes from tak­ing rein of the na­tional team you once played for, as the 11th Sil­ver Fern head coach Noe­line takes on the role amid a cru­cial time for New Zealand net­ball.

At the Com­mon­wealth Games we placed fourth, for our sport at home that’s un­heard of, and it caused a bit of an up­roar,” Noe­line said.

“Be­cause of that, I’ve come in late. Ev­ery other coun­try usu­ally have a three or four year build up but we’ve been able to do seven months, so we are a bit on the back foot.

“How­ever, I’m ready for it and I see these chal­lenges as part of the ex­cite­ment of sign­ing my name on the dot­ted line.”

PHOTO: BARRY AL­SOP / EYES WIDE OPEN IMA

TOP COACH: Head coach Noe­line Tau­rua has taken the Sun­shine Coast Light­ning to win two pre­mier­ships within the club's first two sea­sons.

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