In the first letter to Timothy, the author says: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and into many foolish and harmful desires … for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Instead, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Some 1000 years earlier, in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, ascribed to King Solomon, he prayed God “give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread”. If he had too much he might disown God (precisely what happened); if he had too little he might steal and dishonour God. This quest for simplicity as a key to contentment is common to many philosophies.
Paul’s uniquely Christian insight, in total contradiction of the Roman Empire’s values, was in the paradoxical claim that God reveals his power in human weakness. He told the Corinthians: “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The Christian worldview is stuffed with paradox: believers are to conquer by yielding; we find rest under a yoke; we reign by serving; we are exalted when we are humble; we become wise by being fools for Christ’s sake; we are made free by becoming servants; we live by dying to self. To glory in weakness may still seem counter-intuitive 2000 years later, but it is intensely liberating.
In lockdown, achieving contentment, as always, is easier said than done but far from impossible. Focus not on what we are lacking but on what we have. Compare ourselves not with those who have more but those who have less. And enjoy the small pleasures every day brings.
But another massive decision looms for Netball Australia in the coming weeks, one that is likely to have more far-reaching consequences for the game in this country over the long-term and — thus far— has received far less publicity.
Applications for the Australian Diamonds head coach role quietly closed on June 28.
A five-person selection panel is due to determine the preferred candidate, with the aim to announce the new national coach by the end of August.
While there have been no public declarations, Netball Australia chief executive Marne Fechner has left the door open for a Super Netball coach to be appointed and hold dual roles.
And that would be a significant shift for the sport, with the potential to upset some in the industry.
“We need to understand who our preferred candidate is and if they are a Super Netball coach then we need to work together to understand the complexity associated with doing both for a short or a long period of time, so we’ve got no hard or fast line on that at the moment,” Fechner said.
“Our objective here is to find the best option that we have for the next coach of the Australian Netball Diamonds, someone that is going to lead not only the system but the team into its next four-year cycle.
“How do you mesh and mix the fact that we have this very successful and dominant Super Netball season with a national program?
“I think that’s the next evolution for us and the next challenge for us to tackle.”
Managing a balancing act
There is a recent precedent for this in Australian sport, with Andrej Lemanis coaching the Australian men’s basketball team while holding the top job at the Brisbane Bullets for a few years.
But it is important to remember that a large percentage of the candidates for the Boomers squad ply their trade overseas, while the NBL is not the most elite basketball competition in the world.
The precedent in netball is Noeline Taurua, who took on the New Zealand Silver Ferns coaching job while in charge of Super Netball’s Sunshine Coast Lightning — a move that paid immediate dividends for Australia’s biggest rivals.
But the majority of the Silver Ferns were not playing in Super Netball, and Taurua has since stood down from her Lightning role.
Catherine Cox, who made 108 Test appearances for Australia, said a current Super Netball coach should get the job and continue in both roles.
“I think it has to be because you have got to have someone with experience, and if you look across those roles, they are probably the most experienced coaches we’ve got and they’ve coached at the highest level,” Cox said.
“My fear would be that you would lose one of the good coaches [from Super Netball] for [the sake of] two or three months of the year.
“I think a lot of the coaches want that hands-on time with the team that they can mould to their own and not just get passed to the players in the last two or three weeks before you have an international. That’s tough for anyone.”
Cox’s suggestion the Diamonds job is only for a few months of the year is a controversial one, given the coaching role has been full time since 1990.
But respected commentator Sue Gaudion, who was a coach in the domestic league back in 2008, said the role should be structured around ensuring they got the best candidate.
Gaudion said the way Taurua surrounded herself with experience in her support roles was an important model to keep in mind.
“I honestly believe Netball Australia needs to go in with a completely open mindset,” Gaudion said.
“If [Melbourne Vixens coach] Simone McKinnis steps in and says, ‘I want to continue with the Melbourne Vixens,’ then you find a solution. If [Giants coach] Julie Fitzgerald steps in and says, ‘No, I want a full-time job as the Aussie coach,’ then give it to her.
“Netball Australia need to know there are no barriers for the job.”
Would a club coach show bias?
In a sport where selection is always hotly debated, appointing a club coach to the national role could also invite accusations of bias towards certain players.
“That’s the reason you have a selection committee,” Cox said.
“You probably have to take the coach off the board of selection. They have a say, but they don’t sit on it.
“That might be an area of contention so that’s a quick fix — you just take them out of the selection process and I think that’s fair and that can work.”
Gaudion said there were ways around the issue but she believed it was ridiculous to suggest a coach could not separate the two jobs.
“To say a Super Netball coach is going to be biased as an Australian coach is a really pessimistic view of our elite system,” she said.
As it stands, McKinnis is the clear frontrunner for the role but whether she would like to continue at the Vixens if she gets the national job is not yet known.
Fitzgerald has thrown her hat in the ring, while Vicki Wilson — who is not coaching in Super Netball and most recently coached Fiji — is also understood to have applied.
With the world number one-ranked Diamonds having finished second in both the most recent major championships — the 2019 World Cup and the 2018 Commonwealth Games — and with the news the reigning Liz Ellis Diamond award winner Gretel Bueta will sit out the year as she prepares to welcome her first child, the stakes are high for Alexander’s successor.
And Fechner said she was hopeful the successful candidate would be there for the long haul.
“It’s a new era for the Diamonds,” she said.
“We’ll have a Constellation Cup here in Australia in late November and, importantly for us, we submitted a bid to host the Netball World Cup in 2027.
“That’s hopefully something that the coaches are thinking about as well.”