Julie Fitzgerald taking charge in her 20th final series
It just wouldn’t be an Australian national netball league finals series without Julie Fitzgerald rallying her charges from the sideline.
The GIANTS Netball head coach steered her side to the Suncorp Super Netball minor premiership and will now lead them into her 20th finals campaign across all national leagues.
That record includes every season of the former Australian National League which ran from 1997-2007, the NSW Swifts campaign that took them to the finals in 2008, 2010, 2011, the Magic between 2013 and 2016 in the former Trans-Tasman Championship and last year when the Giants made it to the first ever Suncorp Super Netball finals series.
“Thank heavens I started coaching when I was very young,” she said with a smile.
Reflecting on that legacy of success, Julie said the stunning 2008 finals series was her favourite, a year where the Swifts were given no hope of returning from New Zealand with anything but a heavy loss under their belts.
“We were so much the underdog.
“We went over to New Zealand and beat a star-studded Magic team by one and then came back here to host the Grand Final, that is definitely a standout for me,” she said.
Julie’s first ever finals series in 2001 is another memory she will never forget.
“It was such an exciting time for us to be able to host a home Grand Final, it was so special – I will never forget that one,” she said.
So, what is the key to Julie’s success? Perhaps the key is that there is no key.
There is no magic playbook, no secret strategy – just excellent management of her players and their different needs, wants, emotions and expectations.
“Everything is different, and every girl is different. Every player will approach (finals) differently.
“Some would be downplaying it and others are well aware of the importance of it and you can discuss that with them,” she said.
Julie is pleased the Giants finished in top spot and has allowed her players some time to enjoy that, but warns that finals netball is a different beast.
“A lot of people say it’s just like any game but it’s not like any other game.
“The intensity of finals and the value of finals is so much greater that your approach has to be a little bit different,” she said.
“There are tweaks you want to make to your game, but at this point of the season it’s really about just keeping things ticking over and making sure that they’re fresh, that we’ve really done our homework and know what to expect in the game coming and that we are well prepared for it.”
And while 2018 has been successful so far, Julie said the final quarter against the West Coast Fever in the final round should serve as a reminder that no one is invincible.
With the match seemingly in their keeping, the Giants could only watch as Fever launched a 22-11 final term, setting up a tense finish.
“In a finals match a last quarter like we had would really cost us.
“We know that it has to be a much more complete effort than we put in this week and really, really ensure that we stay in the moment and execute what we want to do continuously throughout the match,” Julie said.
The GIANTS Netball face West Coast Fever this weekend in the Major Semi-Final of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball Finals Series. The game is on Saturday 11 August – 3pm AEST / 1pm AWST at the Quaycentre in Sydney. It will be broadcast live on Channel Nine & Netball Live app – for tickets visit our Finals Hub.