One club, one goal

MALETA Roberts will be happy if she can help even one central Victorian netballer become a better all-round player during her tenure as coach at Strathfieldsaye Storm.

Being a head coach at Strath Storm is providing another big challenge for myself. But I like challenges - I'd be bored without them. - Maleta Roberts

New Storm coach makes commitment and unity a high priority in 2014

But her grand plan is to achieve much, much more than that.

The former Queensland Firebirds goaler who also co-captains Papua New Guinea’s international team has high hopes for her new club and the girls who step out on court wearing the navy and white each week. 

“My aim is I want to help create that overall athlete, not just a netballer,” says the 28-year-old, who signed on in October as Storm’s A-grade and A-Reserve coach for the 2014 season.

“You learn a lot of life skills through sport and I want to bring that to the club: always being responsible, coming on time, and working hard at training as well as during games.

“All those little one percenters help to make the overall athlete.”

Roberts is well qualified to speak on the subject.

Born in Bougainville, she grew up in the Australian outback mining town of Mount Isa and went on to represent Queensland at junior and senior level before earning selection in her native country’s national squad.

As a result, she has plenty of experience in what it takes to run an elite netball franchise. 

While she won’t steamroll in and make wholesale changes, Roberts will bring her own high standards and expectations to Storm and has flagged an initial focus on fundamental skills.

“Whether it’s doing lunges correctly or throwing and catching correctly, that can be missed sometimes,” she says.

“Some shooters have never been taught the correct technique before, and if I can help just one person I will be happy. 

“But Storm is a big club and I plan to help every single one.

“Once all the basics are right, we can grow on the court from there. The girls here have great potential, they are so strong and I think that’s the regional spirit as well, they are all fighters. 

“I just want to tailor their skills and we will have the perfect package.”

Roberts says she has enjoyed enormous support at the club since she was appointed to the role and she intends to make unity a priority across all the netball grades once pre-season training gets under way later in January.

“With our coaching panel, I have said we are going to do it together and align the girls. 

“So all the seniors will warm up and do fitness and drills together before they branch off into their respective teams. 

“I will also be around when the 17-and-unders are training, so we are on the same page and teaching all the girls the same thing. 

“We’ll all be doing one-on-one individual coaching as well, because everyone is different.”

Strathfieldsaye held its netball trials during November, before Roberts headed overseas to lead the PNG Pepes at the annual Nations Cup tournament in Singapore.

She was blown away by the response.

“We had about 130 girls turn up for the try-outs, so it was a very tough job to cut it down.

“We didn’t just have the girls do match play, we had them doing skills and drills as part of the initial selection process so we could see how they adapt to direction and taking instruction.”

This is not Roberts’ first foray into coaching - she was an assistant at Calivil United this year, playing A-grade for the Demons and representing the North Central region at state titles.

Her positioning in the goal ring and shooting accuracy earned her selection in Netball Victoria’s All Star team at the end of the tournament.

“I loved it,” Roberts says of her overall experience in the Loddon Valley league.

“It gets really tiring after all these years, so to come here and play in a local club and see every single person working so hard to keep that club alive, with football and netball so united, was really refreshing. 

“I hadn’t been a part of something like that for a very long time, as I’d been in teams where you have people to do all the outside stuff for you and you just focus on the netball.

“Now being a head coach at Strath Storm is going up another level and providing another big challenge for myself.

“But I like challenges - I’d be bored without them.” 

Storm officials must be rubbing their hands with glee to have a figure with such extensive national and international experience at the helm of its netball department.

She has played alongside Australian Diamonds captain Laura Geitz, against iconic defender Liz Ellis, and under the guidance of goaling legend Vicki Wilson.

So how did she end up in Bendigo?

“My partner has family here,” she says. 

“In Brisbane, I was starting to give netball teams away and the only things I did were State League and play for PNG.

“There was a change in the wind to move to a smaller place, as we are both from small areas, and it came down to a choice between Bendigo and Newcastle.”

With the family connection to central Victoria and her partner securing a job in the region, Bendigo won out.

Roberts stayed in Brisbane for the first 12 months, then joined him at the end of 2012. 

She works at All Stone Quarries as personal assistant to the general manager.

Though she is still playing international netball for PNG, Roberts is unsure whether she will take the court for Storm this year or remain on the sidelines.
She has registered just in case, but says her main priority will be coaching.

“Regardless of whether I play or not, I still plan to train with the girls to keep my fitness up... and also to show the girls that I can do the things I’m asking them to do.”

After several knee reconstructions and back problems, she is reluctantly starting to think about retirement.    

“My body is feeling it now I am 28 and the idea of having children is starting to come on to the page,” Roberts says. 

“I’d like to play for at least another year or so but the way my body is I will just take it as it comes. I’ll play it tournament by tournament and see how it goes.”

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