Netball legend Liz Ellis said after the dust has settled on the sudden end of Lisa Alexander’s nearly nine year stint as head coach, there remains a slight roadblock to finding the best possible successor.
On Tuesday it was announced that Australian Diamonds head coach Lisa Alexander will depart after Netball Australia said they would not be renewing her contract.
Ellis said she was “surprised it happened now”, but also understood the timing from the perspective of netball’s four-year cycle.
“If you’re going to go in a new direction, then this is the right time to do it,” Ellis told Wide World of Sports in an exclusive interview.
“It’s a terribly difficult decision to make to not renew the contract of such a long-serving coach, especially when she wanted to continue. I do think it is the right call.
“It is a good time now to make a change at the start of the next cycle. So it gives the new coach time to come in and stamp her authority on the team before the Commonwealth Games. “
However as Netball Australia now look into the candidates to replace Alexander, Ellis flagged a hurdle to the selection process.
“There’s an issue around not being able to coach your club and country,” Ellis said.
“I would like to see some honest appraisals done around that to make sure that doesn’t rule out the Netball Australia pursuing the best coach available.
“You look at the coaches in Super Netball and they’re all capable of stepping up and coaching the Diamonds because they are all great coaches. “
Ellis put in her two cents for who she would like to see take on the job next for the Diamonds.
“Simone McKinnis [Melbourne Vixens coach] is someone that comes to mind,” Ellis said.
“She was a great Diamonds player, she’s really well respected and loved, and she’s probably ready for it.
“Whether she’d want to do it given she loves being with the Vixens, it’s up to her to make that call.
“But a number of those Super Netball coaches could do it.
“I’m really interested to see who puts their hand up. That’s the next exciting part of this story.”
Ellis said Alexander is a “consummate professional” and would have taken the contract news in her stride, and perhaps saw that the writing was on the wall.
“I think she would have known she was under pressure to keep her job beyond this year,” Ellis said.
“She approaches the job with great intelligence and diligence and she still has plenty to give.
“She would have been incredibly disappointed. It’s a job she loved and would have wanted to keep doing.”
Alexander was head coach during some of the most successful years for the Diamonds, racking up 102 caps at the helm. Under her coaching, the Diamonds have been the number one ranked team in the world since 2011 and she led the team to gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Netball World Cup.
However recent results have dipped with Australia claiming silver at the most recent Commonwealth Games as well as the 2019 Netball World Cup.
“I commend Netball Australia for identifying that need to go in a new direction,” Ellis said.
“Two major losses at the last two major tournaments at the World Cup and Commonwealth Games probably sealed Lisa’s fate.
“But the legacy she leaves, she’s coached over 100 Test matches, the only Australian coach to have done that. That’s phenomenal to coach as long as she did.
“It’s incredibly impressive.
“The players all loved the fact that she had a real feel for the athletes. Their early results were a reflection that the athletes really loved playing for her and I guess that’s how she kept her job for that long.”
Alexander will have one final game as head coach to farewell her supporters, at the Diamonds v Super Netball All-Stars match in Sydney on March 1, raising money for bushfire relief.