A ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
2020 saw me write some very honest articles about the Panthers journey. A coach, like a player, has
to be very reflective to keep moving forward. I believe it is such a true test of character of those who
can grind out the tough times and keep the faith in a vision. Our test of character hasn’t been about
any individual. It has been a collective vision, a process…..from every person who has been a part of
Darling Downs Regional Netball, regardless of their role whether big or small.
There have been more tough times than I care to remember. However, along the journey we have
maintained our integrity. Losing can be soul crushing, especially when you know the players and
support staff put everything they have into preparation. We have never made excuses, merely
reflected as individuals and as a unit and moved onto the next game. People have come and gone,
but full credit must go to those who have stayed and believed that one day our time would come.
2021 saw a shift into bringing a more professionalised approach to the Panthers environment. For
me, as a coach on the brink of walking away from this level, I owed it to myself and the players to
give it another chance. I looked forward to giving myself the opportunity of collaboration with a
wider team, so I could focus on the on court stuff. To give myself the chance to focus on what I do
best, instead of scrambling and trying to understand and process the science behind it, and let those
who have studied it and work with it feed that information to me. To not spend hours at my kitchen
table trying to drum up sponsorship, work through proposals, liaise with Netball QLD…….by having
other, more capable people take on this work freed up my time to analyse game footage and
statistics, and plan trainings accordingly rather than flying by the my the seat of my pants.
I talked a lot about developing a winning mindset in 2020 and prior. People talk about winning as
being a habit. In my heart I believed 100% that we just needed to get a couple of wins, and it would
become our habit. We ticked all the boxes. Commitment, talent, work ethic, accountability,
resilience……it was that final box of self-belief that we really needed to consolidate. Not just the
players….it needed to come from me.
Winning has become such an expectation of this group that I’m not even excited anymore. Don’t get
me wrong, it’s an amazing feeling and I love to see the girls so happy……but we can always do better.
Those first few wins, I came home and cried. Anyone that knows me, knows I very rarely cry. But
there was still that little niggle of doubt, that it was going to be short lived, and I was waiting for the
bubble to burst. People started talking about finals………I was living one game at a time, doing as
much preparation as I could to get the girls 100% focused on their next job at hand. The Tigers game
a few weeks ago was a little prick in our bubble, but it didn’t puncture. We took the learnings from
it, then discarded it to move on to the next. The last 2 weeks have been crucial in consolidating our
place in the Top 4. We couldn’t allow any baggage or negative thoughts to encroach on these games.
Those watching the game V Wildcats on Sunday…..that start nearly caused me to heave. Down 10 –
3 in the first five minutes, I knew how I presented to the girls at the time out would determine how
they proceeded from there. We focus a lot on our breathing techniques at opportune times…..I had
to practice what I preach. What they went out and put on that court for the next ten minutes shows
what they are capable of: mind, body and heart.
When I talk about our team, I talk about the whole 15 woman squad. Whilst some don’t get named
in the 10, it’s the contribution at training, the attitude and commitment by all members that’s got us
to where we are now. We’ve got our “old girls”, the ones who have been grinding for a couple of
years now. Between us, we have had some pretty honest moments that have seen some tears and
some anger, but we have been honest and I have always been clear in my belief in them as players
and my expectations. We have witnessed them come full circle, and that is something that I am so
proud of. I am equally as proud of our “young guns”, who have pushed the boundaries, are now part
of this great experience, and I believe the habit of “winning” will continue through with them on
their Panthers journey. I also have to give credit to our two “ring in’s”, Harriet and Molly P, who at
times have been a little bit confronting and brutal in their desire to not accept anything other than a
win, but who have rubbed off in the most positive way in terms of accountability.
No matter what the outcome of the next game, we have secured a Top 4 position. No time for
complacency now, we still have so much work to do to consolidate all our learnings from the season
and put our best foot forward in finals.
It’s been a long, tough road….culminating in a turn off that hasn’t been travelled by the Panthers
before. I have a strong belief in this unit, I appreciate all those in our community who have been so
supportive and loyal, and I cherish and value every member of our wider team that make up the
There’s a tattoo and slushie machine on the line…….it’s time to get real.