What an achievement to reach an amazing 100th game as the Coach of the Silver Ferns.
This is not celebrated my many National Coaches from any sport. Longevity at the top only comes to those with success and the support of their National Organisation.
Many years ago Ruth and I played in the same team competing in the National League. Our Team Shore Rovers wore the green and gold and achieved 3rd in the comp. Ruth’s first outing as a Tournament Team Coach was the 1990 North Harbour team. Ruth is sitting front left and that’s me at the back third from the left. What a team! When I went to the Shore in 1990 I helped introduce some AIS training regimes as I was an athlete and also worked at the AIS for six years.
Ruth sought the assistance of a Sports Psychologist, Craig Lewis, and also a weights coach. Our trainings were more intense and our fitness went to the next level. This team had come the closest at Nationals to Auckland than it had ever before. We lost the final by four and although bitterly disappointed at the time, it was a great coaching moment for Ruth. Coaching Auckland was the great, Yvonne Willering with Auckland being peppered with NZ players so looking back we did exceptionally well.
This was the beginning for Ruth’s preparation for the big job. Netball New Zealand were in a rebuilding phase at this time and went through a very dark period with the lowest point losing to South Africa at Worlds.
Finally the combination of Ruth Aitken and Leigh Gibbs at the helm steadied the ship. Slowly New Zealand dug itself out of its hole and started making great players and building a great team.
Today the combination of Ruth as Head Coach and Wy as assistant, New Zealand are more consistent. They are competing on a stage that has more competitive teams than ever before. They are a marketing train not only as individual players but as a team. Their respect in the Netball community is back and competing countries are nervous when the wall of black hits the court.
I am an Australian, born in New Zealand (a bit like Cath Cox) but I do take my hat off to a woman who has given the Silver Ferns an injection of hope and has lead this team to greatness. When the day comes that Ruth decides to hang up her coaching boots the international Netball community will have lost one of the best.
We know each other very well and I am so proud of what Ruth has achieved. Congratulations mate.
Written by Melissa O’Brien