2020 End of Season Report

To say I was disappointed in our results on the score board is quite the understatement. But with a little self-reflection and a little netball down time over the past week or so, I have a bit of perspective.

I think the biggest lesson I learned over 2020 is patience.

Covid-19 really hit us all for a six. From a normal start to the year, to complete shutdown, to a full season of netball crammed into the space of a few months was really a test of character, to say the least. As I am across a couple of programs in our Region, my anxiety levels were through the roof. Upon reflection, I spread myself way too thin, couldn’t give my normal focused attention to each component, and subsequently felt my self drowning with my mind shifting to a thousand other things I needed to do, and not being completely present.

Panthers needs to be my Number One priority. In my heart it was, but not in my mind. Our focus this year was working on a culture shift to a winning mentality. We got off to a great start pre Covid, with a fantastic team building day. Throughout the shutdown, the girls were disciplined and focused on their strength and conditioning. We held Zoom and Messenger meetings to keep in touch. We had a really good vibe going on.

We were so excited to get the green light to start on court sessions, and the news our season was going ahead.

Everything else was also given the green light to go ahead. Whilst I am so grateful we got the opportunity to get out on court, I don’t believe the planning, and prioritizing events were handled well from the powers that be. I understand and appreciate that 2020 has been difficult, but to be given vital information only days out from major events, receiving draws one or two weeks at a time, holding 4 major tournaments in a period of 5 weeks and having 5 Ruby games scheduled in to a 2 week period, quite frankly, near did me in. Trying to manage players who were across many of these events with injuries, training loads and wellbeing was also very difficult. I think we were pretty lucky to come out the other side with only a couple of minor injuries.

I know I always digress in these articles, so I will get back on track discussing Panthers.

Our Management team spent a lot of time researching and planning our sessions to be more targeted and structured to our needs. I really need to thank my team; Caitlin, Nat, Gaz, Gio and Hein. They really are my anchor. In a tough, mentally draining year, I wouldn’t have come out the other side without them. They were good cops to my bad cop, and vice versa. We are a team, we work in harmony, and I value the relationships we have with one another.

I feel the hard work over the past 4 and 5 years within the pathway programs has paid off. Basic skill levels do not need nearly the attention they needed a few years ago. It chewed up a bit of time having to spend time on that stuff. This year we were able to spend more time on unit work, set plays (offensively and defensively) and structure. I really liked a lot of what I saw in this respect through the 2020 season. What we lacked was consistency. This is where my patience needs to come into play. These things take time. To put strategies into place under the pressure that the Ruby games bring is a whole different ball game to doing it at training.

A huge positive I can take out of the season is the number of goals we scored. We averaged roughly 45 goals per game. The majority of these goals were scored by our very young rookie, and around 87% accuracy.

The goals against were inconsistent. We had some big summer blow outs where the opposition scored in the seventies; other games in the fifties. This was not an indication of a poor defensive unit; our statistics proved we turned the balled over down there, but lost it elsewhere in the transition. A big area of focus would be our transition through both transverse lines. We did target it specifically at many training sessions, by overloading the defenders and working through many different options. Here again is where my patience needs to kick in, because it was preparing the new players for Ruby level, and asking the old players to change their way of thinking. We need to be able to replicate with the same levels of intensity and quality over and over and over, until we start reaching that consistency. I just have to remind myself that it doesn’t happen overnight.

I heard a comment just before our last game that there was a franchise who didn’t think we belonged in the competition. That we should only serve as a feeder club. In normal times, I would have flown off the handle like the hot head I can be. Being the last game of the season, after driving 2 and half hours to Morayfield, I just felt sad and deflated.  To be honest, my mind wasn’t totally focused on the game. I was looking at individuals, and thinking about who would still be playing at this level if the Panthers were no more. Maybe 2, possibly 3 might get picked up at other franchises. My eyes scanned across the court at Taylah, who travels from Maidenwell; Caitlin from Warwick; Kaylin, a Year 9 student; Jane, a full time Paramedic…….these are just a few examples of players in the Panthers that would find it near impossible to travel to Brisbane for 2 or 3 sessions a week plus games. What would happen to them? The statement to act as a feeder team is just ridiculous. Who do they play against in regular competition to edge them towards the level they need to be at for Ruby? I actually asked a couple of the girls after the game if they felt it was a waste of time playing these games and losing by such margins at times. The unanimous answer was they loved training, they loved the opportunity to play at such a level and they would come back year after year if given the chance.

Most upsetting for me though, is what hope do our kids have coming through representative programs and regional pathways. There always has to be stepping stones in any pathway. The Panthers has served to be a wonderful stepping stone for many successful players. We are open and transparent, we work very hard, we act with integrity and honesty, and we pay our bills. Making statements that we don’t deserve to be in the Ruby Series is just downright disrespectful and lacking in foresight.

The work that Graeme and Lauren put in with our social media presence has been fabulous. The livestreams, the photo galleries, promo videos and posts has been very exciting. We have a fantastic base of loyal fans, as seen by our views and interactions. We engage supporters from other franchises and have built great relationships and rapport with most other teams and coaches throughout the season. I sincerely thank both Graeme and Lauren for their passion and belief in what we are doing, as it exudes in everything they do.

If I am to coach the Panthers in 2021, what would I like to see more of from my players? Accountability is #1. Being accountable for own fitness levels and recognizing when work needs to be done in their own time. Accountability in their daily habits. To play at this level and be successful, daily habits needs to reflect a disciplined athlete, in areas such as nutrition, rest and recovery and self-reflection. Lastly, accountability in not accepting defeat as a given. Much work still needs to be done here, but I have faith in our players who work so hard, and our people who are here for the right reasons working to keep pushing us to be the best we can be.

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©2019 by Darling Downs Panthers.