Kate McMahon - My Redan Story
Where did you grow up and what are some of your best memories and highlights of your junior netball career?
We grew up in a small country area called Bamawm, just west of Rochester in Northern Victoria. Bamawm is not so much of a town, but rather a recreation reserve, which our family home was (and still is) only two kilometres from.
I grew up on the side of the netball court with my brother and sister (Paul and Sharelle) watching Mum play netball (she was a gun goaler), and then Sharelle and I started playing at around the 6-7 year old mark. Mum was our (primary) school coach and it was the best.
My favourite memories, by far, are the years I got to play with Sharelle (we were both shooters). We would practice almost every night, sometimes until well after dark and practiced endless set plays and shooting competitions. The competitiveness was indeed palpable, but all the while, we had the greatest time.
We were lucky to experience success in junior netball (we played in the Rochester Association) and won several Grand Finals through the years we played. I also played in many school/zone teams, which was a great experience traveling to Melbourne to compete.
You have also achieved success in the senior ranks, tell us about some of the places you have played and your greatest achievements?
Hmmm… my ‘story’ takes many turns really, but in a nutshell, in the 90’s (ha!), I changed to football/netball and played for the Lockington Bamawm United (LBU) A-Grade side, was coached my amazing coaches and was again lucky enough to win premierships with the Club.
I also went to University in Ballarat (ironically) and actually played a season for Dela in the Ballarat Premier League. That now feels like a million years ago!
When I was 21, I dropped out of University (shock!) and I switched paths and randomly moved to the Gold Coast (by myself), to embark on a golf career. As a result, I hardly played any netball at all for almost ten years… After a persistently annoying back injury, I decided to return to University in 2003, completed a degree in Exercise Science and an Honours degree in Golf Biomechanics. Soon after I found myself working at the AIS in Canberra as a Post-Grad Biomechanist in 2009.
At the beginning of my AIS year, some work colleagues talked me into trying out for a netball team which turned out to be the Belconnen State League team and after not playing ‘real’ netball for just years, I played, our team won and I somehow won the MVP for our Club.
This was the year I rediscovered my love for the game of netball. I will be forever grateful for my time at Belconnen and my 12 months of living, and breathing everything that is the beautiful Canberra and the amazing AIS.
At what stage did you consider coaching and which of your own coaches had the biggest influence on you?
This is probably going to sound strange, but at no point prior to my first year at Redan in 2011 had I ever remotely considered coaching netball! When Emma Jess first approached me to coach that year I remember laughing out loud, thinking it was a joke that they were considering me for ANY role, let alone the A Grade role. Good on you Em J for persisting and believing… will always owe you!
But as for my biggest influences on my coaching, there would be two + two more… 1) Marg Davis coached me at LBU and she was a tough, driven coach, who always trained us hard, and had an unwavering belief in each of her players’ abilities, and had a great ‘resting b***h face’ as she stood on the sideline watching us… as I write this now, perhaps I picked up a thing or two from Marg, ha!
2) Michelle O’Sullivan was my coach at Belconnen. She was indeed a nurturing coach and taught me quite a bit about the off-court nature of what a good coach needs to be. Michelle handed out packages the night before our State League Grand Final and gave us each a laminated card with a quote on it, and mine read;
“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
It is a quote that has since become a bit of a mantra for almost every aspect of my life.
Finally, the “+ two more”. My Mum and my Mum’s Mum (my Nan). Mum coached me when I first started, and was on the sideline of almost every single game until I moved to Queensland. My Nan was considered one of the best netballers of her era and until she left my world in 1993. She too was at almost every game of netball I played and would ALWAYS tell me what she thought, HA! Two great women in my life, two of the best coaches a young netballer could ever wish for.
Who or what was it that saw you come to be involved at Redan and tell us a little about your family’s connection with the club?
As mentioned above, Emma Jess was my first point of contact. I moved from Canberra to Ballarat in 2010 with my fiancée (the ever-amazing Nige), and we chose Ballarat as Nige’s job was moved from Brisbane to Melbourne.
We did not really want to live in Melbourne and I loved Ballarat from my time at University. More importantly my brother Paul lived here, so we were sold. Paul was playing for Redan, so we went along almost every week to watch him play.
What was your first impression of the Redan and the strength of relationship between football and netball?
Party, party, party! Pretty much would sum up my first thoughts of the Club and it was amazing how welcome I felt and the sense of the Club pride was exceptionally strong.
However, I do remember being very confused at the time when the netty girls were explaining to me how the netball and football worked, as I could not get my head around the fact the Club had no netball court on site, and had to train (and play) so far away.
Even then I remember thinking how amazing it was going to be for the Club when the netball court was available to them. But the strong social sense between the netballers and footballers was clear, and I will always remember my first Den sesh!
How much of a role did the club’s new court at the City Oval make in terms of player recruitment?
It is difficult for me to comment on the immediate change it had for the Club as I my first year of coaching was the same year we first utilised the new court at City Oval. I will try not to get too political here(!), but I think (one) court on-site is a great starting point for the Club, but in terms of power in player recruitment, I think our facilities are challenging to entice new players.
The netball landscape of the BFNL (and wider communities) has experienced seemingly exponential growth and competitiveness over the past few years for coaches, players, umpires and support staff. It is a battle that is worth keeping fighting for the Club, as hard a battle as I know it is.
In the Redannies’ dreams, hopefully the netballers can get a second on-site court, full change facilities and some room for families and really sell the great Club it is to incoming Clubs-people and ultimately taste success again in the near future.
How did season 2011 play out and at what stage did you feel the side were a legitimate title threat?
For some reason, I was quite convinced at the start of the year that we could win the whole thing. Why? I don’t know… a mixture of ignorance, nervousness, and sheer desire. At no point that year were we genuinely considered a threat to other teams, and that suited me just fine.
We didn’t beat any of the teams above us that year, but finishing in the beautiful third spot on the ladder that year served us well. The greatest win for our side that year was defeating East Point in the Preliminary Final (played at Darley), which we won by five goals.
Steph Burns (our GA) played with two broken fingers that day, and I will never forget it. It was after we beat them that I saw a complete shift in the players’ faces that they finally had the belief that they needed to win the Grand Final against Lake Wendouree and win they did.
But 2011 was an extremely special year. Redan had four out of four netball grades playing in Grand Finals that year and the feeling of belief and excitement around the Club that week leading into the grand final was extraordinary and played a huge role in our success in three out of four of those grand finals that year.
Lake Wendouree went into the 2011 Grand Final looking for its fifth title in a row. What was the key to stopping them on that day?
Two words. Phoebe Knox. HA! Phoebe is an incredibly talented netballer, and arguably did not play to her fullest potential throughout the year, or even in the lead up finals (and I think she would agree…), however in the Grand Final, she put in place everything we worked on, and in 60 beautiful moments of netball, it all came together, and it was super!
Another key aspect was nullifying the influence of Stacey McCartin. I gave Hollie Frew that job and if I was honest, I gave her a job and that was to make Stacey absolutely crazy… (apologies Stacka if you are reading this, but you are a gun… something had to be done… hehe…), and Hollie did an incredible job keeping the unkeepable quiet that day.
Finally, we had to defend well, and that was the day that a very young Erin Riley arrived as a legitimate GK, and the rest is history… (Having said that, it was a special day. And on special days, people do special things. And that is what happened.
Steph Burns bombed them in from everywhere with broken fingers. Cass (then) Hobbs was relentless, Sally Riley was as consistent as ever, Kerry Dendle did amazing things in GD and then the courageous captain Em Blomeley came on and does what any great captain does – inspire and deliver. What a great day it was.
The late Sally McLean was a highly regarded and decorated coach with the Lakers. What made her such a terrific mentor?
Firstly, let me say, I wish I organised and spent more time with Sal; how much better of a coach I would be. As a good friend of mine said about Sally soon after she passed, “Ray (McLean) did the work (re: Leading Teams) but Sal lived and inspired his work”. Sally was a true example of what a good coach does – to believe in the value of coaching the player in life (i.e., off the court), and then the on-court development will follow, and this is something that I try to emulate.
Sally’s ability to develop confidence and leadership among her players, and to create a positive, creative, open team environment were the attributes that rightfully earnt her accolades and on-court success, but more importantly the off-court respect and admiration. What a champion.
Who were some of the players who impressed you with their skills, leadership ability and work rate?
The player who impressed me most with their skills/ability was Phoebe Knox. I truly believe that if Phoebe wanted to go and play at an elite level, she absolutely could have. But instead, she is living the dream job up in the Northern Territory, and wouldn’t that be awesome as well!
The player who showed the greatest leadership ability is ironically another current Northern Territorian in Sally Riley, not that she would ever agree with me… Sal has an amazing likeability and relatability (smiled when she played, and it drove me CRAZY every time..!), and if there was ever anyone put on this Earth to teach children, and be a born leader, mentor, and motivator, it would be Sal.
As for work rate, no-one, NO-ONE beats the tenacity, eagerness and endless energy of one Cass Hobbs (Peace). If there was anyone that you needed to rely on to give you 110%, for every second of time they were on-court, it would be Cass. Hands down.
Which players developed the most during your time at the club?
Erin Riley was definitely a player I enjoyed watching across my years coaching at Redan – changing her from a defender, to a shooter, back to a defender was a crazy ride and watching her confidence slowly build was exciting, and frustrating, and challenging, and amazing… and all worth it.
Seeing Ez play now in the VNL (for ACU Sovereigns) is really super, and I know how hard she has worked to improve, and if I have helped 1% of her netball, then I would be proud to have done that.
Also, the lovely Hollie Frew – wow did I put her through the wringer… Hollie worked her heart out to become an amazing WD initially, but then I wanted to challenge her to develop her multi-positional ability and worked with her to move into the C and WA positions, and she did this really well and played some really fantastic netball in the process.
And finally, Ruby Parry. Rubes was a really raw talent when I first met her, but as I have worked with her, it has been amazing to watch her confidence develop, both as a shooter and a netballer in general. I look forward to watching Rubes play a lot more representative netball in future years, and will be proud to have had a (small) role to play in her development.
What are some of your best memories of your time with Redan?
Being 32-33 weeks pregnant on the 2011 Grand Final day, and my emotions were COMPLETELY out of control. The game was SO close towards the end of the last quarter, and I started crying my eyes out, and the harder I willed myself to stop, the harder I cried. Pathetic really.
So for the last five minutes of that match, the girls played without a coach, as I was in the back of the shed (at Eastern Oval), sitting, crying uncontrollably… the lovely Jo Jess had her arms around my shoulders and was giving me score updates and time updates as I had my head in my hands… not my proudest coaching moment, but one I will never forget!
Probably my most (in)famous moment, and arguably funny now in retrospect, was the great “teaspoon of cement” rant of mid-2011… it was a big game against Lakers, and we got rolled, and the coach (me), was a bit furious… but only because I wanted my girls to believe in themselves as much as I did in them… poor Ez (Erin Riley) had come off with a thumb injury, but (and apologies Ez) I thought she had dislocated her shoulder given the performance (again, sorry Ez…).
So mid-rant, I took aim at a poor, then young, unsuspecting Ez and roared at her… and it went something like, “what you are going to do Ez, is go and have an x-ray, and if it is broken, then we will deal with that, but if it isn’t, I am going to go to Bunnings, get a bag of cement, come around to your house, and we are going to get a teaspoon out, and I am going to shove that cement right down your throat!!!” … … … … … hmmmmmm.
Quality coaching moment. Ultimately, it turned out to be something that stuck, as the girls all had shirts printed up for the finals series for that year, with “Have a cup of concrete” written across the back. GOLD. Unforgettable.
Having heard you speak and through reading Sally Riley’s recent interview, your passion for the sport and ability to instil belief in players are without question. How do you go about building and maintaining confidence in the group as a whole and with individual players?
(Thanks Sally for the kind words…) Building confidence in the teams that I work with is always challenging. For me, I strive to always be very clear in my plans, methods and communication with my players and make myself available all day, every day. A mantra of, if I am in, I am all in and that is exactly what I want in return.
I believe in the concept of a team is the sum of its parts, so I absolutely try get to know each player both on and off the court and make sure my teaching methods fit their specific learning style, personality and confidence in the task at hand.
Ultimately, it is all about communication for me and I try to provide both the team and each player, honest feedback as often as I can and truly be available to each player, every single day. All in.
Golf is your other great sporting passion and you almost turned pro back in 2003. What are some of your highlights in golf and your favourite course?
“Almost turned pro”… sigh. What a bummer… almost, almost, almost… ha! My number one highlight would have to be as a playing representative in the Queensland State Team in 2003, the only year I played at State level, but what an amazing opportunity that was. Would do it all again in a heartbeat…
I LOVE the challenge of matchplay… I have many highlights, but reaching and maintaining a handicap of scratch was a real thrill WAY back and I spent five to six years traveling and playing in tournaments on the National Amateur circuit all across Australia and New Zealand during the early 2000’s.
My lowest round I carded was 69 off the stick, which I shot three to four times across the years and along the way, I carded three course records at different courses. I also received a scholarship to play (for a short time) in Japan, and that was AMAZING.
I spent most of my ‘real’ playing years under the coaching of the incredible Ian Triggs… what an amazing man he is, and for almost my entire full-time amateur career, I had an incredibly generous, selfless, kind, and amazing sponsor, for whom I will be eternally grateful for.
More recently, since moving to Ballarat, I have won the Ballarat District championship twice, but most memorably in 2013, when I was six months pregnant with Zara… a blimp playing golf. Also, last year, I won my first Ballarat Golf Club club championship and won it on the last hole of an 18 hole matchplay, in front of most of my family, the day after my 40th birthday party and it was arguably the most proud I have been of myself on a golf course.
Finally, I played as a member of the Ballarat District Country Week team in Melbourne last year (my first time as a member of this team). Our team played in Division 2 and went through the competition undefeated and champions for the first time in 11 years. In August this year, we will compete in Division 1. In an individual sport, playing in a team environment is THE BEST, and I loved every single minute of it.
My favourite course… wow, tough question… Royal Sydney… (but special mentions to Lake Macquarie (NSW), Victoria GC, Riversdale, and the ultimate golf resort, Bonville)!
Are there any similarities between the two sports?
Absolutely. Control what you can control, and be the very best you can be. Every sports person, regardless of the sport they play, has to look themselves in the mirror at some stage throughout the day (most days), and that is the person each player has to worry about turning up for, and being honest with… you know in yourself if you have given it your all – whether it be training, or in competition, physically, or mentally.
My argument (now, as a coach) is, as long as you can look yourself in the eye and truly say you gave it everything you had, that is all that matters. Regardless of it being an individual sport, or a team sport, that is definitely the one thing you can control. Do that, and what more could be asked of you? Control what you can control. Oh, and never, never, never, never, ever, give up. Ever.
Your ultimate sporting fantasy - a gold medal at the World Championships with the Diamonds or a winning a golf major?
Easy. Diamonds all the way. I would take celebrating a win with teammates any day over an individual win. Plus, netballers know how to celebrate, well..!
The legendary Australian Netball Coach Joyce Brown was once linked to the head coaching role at AFL side Fitzroy in the 1990s. Hockey coach Ric Charlesworth has consulted with the Fremantle Dockers. As we have seen in recent times with code swapping athletes, do you think champion coaches could ever transition successfully between sports at the elite level?
I think it would take an exceptionally outstanding coach to achieve this at an elite level. Coaching is an all-consuming occupation, and as much as the mental side of the game holds great importance (and skills I think could definitely transfer across different sports), I think it would be rare to see someone with the knowledge of the game strong enough to successfully transition between sports.
HOWEVER, we are entering a changing landscape of professionalism in elite level sport, with male and female athletes transitioning not only across different codes, but also different sports entirely (i.e., Ellyse Perry in both cricket and soccer).
So as each sport grows in its own professionalism and these new ‘multi-sport’ elite athletes wind up their playing careers, the possibilities are endless for the future of elite-level coaching. Exciting times!
Your training is in biomechanics. What have you applied through your knowledge in that field to your own sporting and coaching careers?
My research area was in golf biomechanics, which I studied as I honestly wanted to better understand my own chronic back injury at the time! So I absolutely was able to apply my knowledge to my own game, whether this was/is of benefit or hindrance is probably debatable..!
As for my netball coaching career, I probably do not apply my knowledge as directly, but I do think the areas of kinetic links and force production possibly helps my ability to analyse a player’s movement patterns and skill imperfections.
How much of a threat to netball participation does the creation of a Women’s AFL pose?
Not much at all, but rather, I honestly believe it will be beneficial to our sport of netball. Any sport that encourages young girls to play, and provides pathways for, is an incredible thing for our society as a whole.
Having women’s sport on the television for our young girls to watch will hopefully encourage and inspire more and more girls to participate in a team sport and gain the social and physical benefits we need to keep girls playing sport as they grow older.
Many young girls already play multiple sports at the same time (football, netball, basketball), so I only think a new elite level sport will further encourage girls to participate in sport in general, and I think netball will be a great beneficiary of this. Exciting times.
How far away are we from the ANZ Championship league going full time professional without the need for these players to be juggling part time jobs?
With the new elite level competition having been announced recently, things have just gotten interesting! Currently, the current salary cap for a team in the ANZ Championship is $270K, to cover the 12-player roster, but this new competition will have 5 current teams with the addition of 3 licensed teams, being Melbourne Storm, GWS Giants, and Collingwood.
Big franchises, big five year broadcast commitment with Channel 9, big commercial opportunities, BIG money… so we shall see… I think we are really close to professionalism for the top players of our game, but time will tell to see how long it will take for the professional money to trickle all the way down the 12-player roster. Sooner than we think I suspect.
Your sister Sharelle was a champion player and captained the Diamonds. Could we see the two of you coaching together at the elite level one day?
Ha! I wish! I think it is fair to say that after Sharelle is in a totally different league to me, and I am in awe of her knowledge of the game every time I sit and chat to her about anything netball. I have no doubt Sharelle could coach any team, at any level, if she wanted to.
So I don’t think, in this lifetime, we will be coaching together, at an elite level anyway, but I will be her number one supporter if she ever decided to take it on. If in the far off future, (my) Zara, and (Sharelle’s) Ruby decide to play netball, and somehow, one day they got to play in the same team together (at any level), I’m sure it will be amusing to watch Sharelle and I stand together watching them play… ha!
What is the best piece of advice you could give to the junior netballers starting their careers at Redan and also their coaches?
To the junior netballers – give absolutely 100% effort and attention at every single training session and game, never be afraid to ask your coach for help on something specific (and don’t ever stop asking), and finally, practice, practice, practice. Every day, and not just training days.
Practice at the courts, in your backyard, in your lounge room. Be patient with yourself, don’t be afraid to play other sports as well, have fun, and practice. PS. Respect, love, appreciate, forever love, and THANK your Mum/Dad/etc… EVERY time you get in the car to go to training or play…
To the junior coaches – have one to two simple skills to work on in each training session, and have patience, lots of patience. And never be afraid to ask for mentor help with skills/drills/specific problem solving. And finally, get involved in as many coaching courses that you are able to attend, they are fantastic, and a great way to network, learn, and become a better coach.
Sharelle and I in Mum’s team colours - #1 supporters
1992 – Rochester Netball Association U18 Representative Team.
Premiers with LBU – Sharelle on the far left, me on the far right.
Belconnen–ACT State League 2009
2014 Grand Final Day – With Sharelle & Paul
2014 Grand Final Day – With mum, Sharelle, Paul, Dad
2011 – the start of the season with the new court – my first year coaching at Redan.
2011 premiers – pregnant with Leo!