Founded by current head coach Gel Williams, Grangetown is now the foremost netball club in the region. The elite squad plays in national Premier League 2, there are senior and age-group teams, and a thriving junior section. Before last year’s Commonwealth Games, Grangetown had the opportunity to take on Jamaica’s “Sunshine Girls”, the eventual bronze medallists; and this past week, the club has been able to call on the services of Lindsay Filiata, who is Netball New Zealand’s Coach Development Officer.
Lindsay began coaching at a relatively young age: “I never really played netball at a high level; I did play for a long time in the UK and in New Zealand, but never at representative or under-21 level. I went into coaching quite early, when I was about nineteen.
“I sort of fell into it by accident. I know that’s probably not ideal, but I wanted to still be part of a team, keep learning about the game, and give back as much as I could. I had no more aspirations to play, and the more I got into coaching, the more I knew it was what I wanted to do; and my job back in New Zealand is now involved in coach development – coaching the coaches!”
With the excellent coverage given to international netball at the Commonwealth Games, the sport’s profile is growing. The World Cup will take place later this year, and a new, quicker version of the sport, Fast5, is also starting to expand.
“Fast5 only really involves the national teams at the moment; it’s not really developed into an everyday sport just yet,” Lindsay explained. “But I think it will be a bit like rugby sevens where the coaching and tactics are different because it’s almost a different game. I’m excited to see how it develops.
“As far as the World Cup is concerned, Australia are the clear favourites. And with the tournament being held in Australia, I think it’s going to be even tougher for the likes of New Zealand, England and Jamaica. Australia are riding on the crest of a wave of success at the moment; the youngsters are coming through, and I think they’re definitely the team to beat.”
But what had prompted Lindsay to travel halfway round the world for ten days on Teesside?
“Gel had been in touch to see if there were any coaches who wanted to come over. I’d played in the UK and I knew how different the game is in both countries; and so I spoke to Gel and everything just fell into place!”
And Lindsay had some positive words about Grangetown Netball Club: “I think the club is fantastic. It’s got such a family vibe to it, and I love how you can be coaching the little five year-olds one day, and working with the Premier squad the next! Everyone is so passionate about the club; all the coaches are young, which is great, and the club is growing so quickly. There is such a cross-section of players, and what Gel’s built up here is fabulous.”
The commitment and dedication needed to play in the Premier League was not lost on Lindsay either: “I think the Premier squad could do with more time together, but it’s difficult with Marie [Ewing] and Ria [Small] being involved with Team Northumbria. The players have certainly got the passion and the drive, I’m hoping my visit has invigorated them a little bit, but they do need more games together. Obviously people have to work, and there are mums in the squad, but I’ve been really impressed with the standard.
“It’s amazing when you realise that players actually travel to come to this club,” she continued. “Some might drive for thirty minutes to get here, and pass five or six other clubs on the way, which says a lot for what is happening here.”
Lindsay will be flying home later today, back to her two young children, who are aged nineteen months, and just four months; her stay may have been short, but the effect will be long-lasting. “We’ve done some skills work, but I really enjoy the tactical side of game and then seeing new things used in a match situation. It often takes quite a long time for changes to become part of the game, but the coaches here have been very open to learning; they’ve asked loads of questions, and whilst I think we all wish this trip could have been a bit longer, it’s definitely been an excellent experience.”