Reinga Bloxham: Homegrown Southern Steel netball coach takes the reins - March 25, 2017
by SCOTT DONALDSON
Former Southern Sting player Reinga Bloxham has taken hold of the reins as Southern Steel head coach in 2017. Scott Donaldson caught up with her former coaches, players, and teammates to take a behind the scenes look at what makes the new coach tick.
"Curly", as she is affectionately known, loves avocados, the movie Legends of the Fall, and the song You're Welcome from the Moana movie, and the former Southern Steel assistant coach is about to face her biggest coaching challenge yet at the helm of an ANZ Premiership side.
Bloxham started her representative coaching career in 2009 when she joined forces with Jo Cunningham to co-coach the Southland team to victory in the Lois Muir Challenge, but she also had an impressive playing career.
The new Southern Steel coach was born-and-raised in Southland during which time she played six seasons for the Southern Sting from 1998 to 2004, in the same position as current Southern Steel captain Wendy Frew.
Frew joined the Sting in 2002 as a 17-year-old and learned a lot from her more senior teammate.
"I played along with Curly for a few years, we were kind of both wing defence, so she was starting before I was and I was learning a lot off her, she was great for me learning that position, a really good experienced player and always had a cool head when it went down to the wire," Frew said.
"It was a pretty cool feeling playing with her and now she is coaching."
Bloxham also co-coached the Southland team in 2010 and 2011 and then was the sole head coach of Southland in 2012, before joining the Steel as assistant coach in 2013 under current Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby, until Noeline Taurua took over in 2016.
"I think as players you always respect your management, it is no different with Curly and we have been teammates before, she is my boss now so she is definitely calling the shots and I am really looking forward to working with her in the games and what she is going to bring and make us achieve," Frew said.
"I think it is great Curly has come in, she has had a really good year with Noels [Taurua] under her and learned a lot about the game itself and she is bringing her own flavour into this year's team."
"It is really refreshing and obviously having Lauren [Piebenga] in there in her first year in the ANZ it's a great combination, they are doing really well, it's pretty exciting to see what they can help us achieve this year."
According to former Southern Sting and Southern Steel coach Robyn Broughton, Bloxham was a "very committed team member" during her playing days.
"In her time with us we had very experienced senior defence player's so she had a lot of competition for a playing position," Broughton said.
"She was a wing defence and was always willing and hardworking."
When the Sting started in 1998 under coach Broughton, Bloxham was a talented young team member.
"She was one of the younger members who will have many memories of her time in Sting and who learned so much from the older more experienced players, it was a time we all enjoyed," Broughton said.
"The sharing and caring was part of the reason for our success. It is good to think those values are not being forgotten."
Broughton is pleased to see former players like Bloxham and Donna Wilkins giving back to the sport through coaching.
Bloxham, who was a primary school teacher at Middle School in Invercargill, helped Broughton by coaching her Verdon Senior A high school netball team in 2012, when Broughton started coaching the Pulse in Wellington.
"She did very well with them," Broughton said.
"Professional coaching is a mixture of art and science and doesn't happen overnight it takes years of preparation, dedication and is a continual learning process."
"I am sure Reinga will continue to develop many more skills as her coaching career progresses."
"She is lucky to have had recent experience as an assistant coach under Noeline Taurua who is very experienced and wily and had a lot of success at ANZ level. I am sure Reinga has recognised that and will apply a game plan that she thinks best for her team."
For 2016 Southern Steel netball coach Noeline Taurua, the fact that Bloxham was born and raised in Southland, makes her appointment as coach special.
"It is that she is homegrown, she has played her netball down there, she's a past Sting player, so she has got history with the region and the franchise and I always think it is a fantastic opportunity," she said.
"For coaches who have come through and past players to represent your own region, it doesn't really happen often and I think that is a great bonus and a testament to Southern Steel as well, that they are getting those pathways right."
Taurua believes that Bloxham's experience coaching at provincial level will be very helpful at the next level.
"She has done the ground work in regards to working with the levels underneath and working at the regional levels and she has been successful there," Taurua said.
"I know some coaches have come through and they haven't gone through the ranks so to speak, so she has done that, so she has got a lot of experience in her back pocket, I think that's a positive."
According to Taurua, her replacement as Steel coach is good at building relationships both on and off the court and has the ability and knowledge to coach at both attacking and defensive ends of the court.
"She works well with the CEO and board members as well, she is very open, she is actually a really lovely person," Taurua said.
"For me it is about relationships, not only how you work with players both on and off the court, but it is also how you work within the organisation and communication as well is usually a big thing."
The Sunshine Coast Lightning coach describes her former assistant as "not a dictatorial type of coach", but thinks she "orchestrates well."
"She knows exactly what she requires, but she is also willing to listen to what the players want and how they want to play the game and then to provide the balance or advice as to which strategy needs to be implemented out on court," Taurua said.
Former Sting teammate Sarah Hamilton played alongside Bloxham in 2004, before being coached by her in the 2013 and 2014 Southland representative teams.
Hamilton said at an NPC event in Dunedin in 2014, Bloxham "reprised the Southland dress, much to the amusement of the team and Aunty Georgie [Salter]."
"As a coach of Southland teams, Reinga had a level of expectation on players to just get the job done - much like Robyn Broughton did," Hamilton said.
"Reinga's unfussy in her approach, but always finds the right way to get what she wants and the best from players and she creates easy and friendly team environments."
Former Southern Sting teammate Debbie Munro played netball alongside the mother of two for the Rata club and Southland teams.
She is not surprised that Bloxham has ended up becoming a professional coach.
"She was a natural leader from a young age," Munro said.
"She was an awesome athlete and player who had amazing elevation and intercepting skills. She read the game really well and always knew what to say when the team needed lifted, she had mana and was very humble."
Munro still thinks her former teammate looks like she could still play at the top level.
"I look at Reinga and she still looks like an athlete and if she got out with the girls on the court, she would fit in with the top players," Munro said.
The Southern Steel play the Northern Stars in their first game of the season on Sunday at 2pm in Hamilton.