Written by Amelia Barnes
Di Honey is a legend of Victorian netball. As a former Australian Diamonds athlete, Victorian Fury coach, and the current assistant coach of the Melbourne Vixens, she's played a role in shaping almost every elite player who’s come through the Netball Victoria pathway over the past 10 years.
Today, Honey celebrated her 150th national league game as an assistant coach in Round 11 of the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball season.
Honey’s career with the Vixens began in 2014. Prior to taking up the assistant coach role, she held coaching positions at Wesley College and as a specialist midcourt coach for the Australian Diamonds. She was also the head netball coach at Geelong Grammar – a role she managed alongside the Vixens until 2021.
Simone McKinnis had been the Vixens head coach for a year when she asked her former teammate and friend (McKinnis was a bridesmaid at Honey’s wedding) to come on board.
“We're just on the same page … we've got a really good connection,” said Honey of McKinnis. “I'm able to read her mind and what she's seeing, and she’s the same with me,”
Honey credits the duo’s working relationship to their shared experiences as former players being coached by some of netball’s greats.
“We've been very lucky … We've had some unreal coaches in Norma Plummer, Joyce Brown, and myself with Wilma Shakespear. I think we've got the same sort of coaching philosophy that they ingrained in us, so we both have very high standards, and I'm sure the players would say that as well.”
There’s been many highlights over Honey’s Vixens career, from the 2014 premiership in her debut national coaching season, to the most recent premiership won in the 2020 COVID hub.
Honey has also had the privilege of coaching her daughter, Tayla Honey, who was a contracted athlete for the Vixens in 2020.
Netball has evolved as a sport over the years, but Honey said the Vixens environment has always stayed the same. “It's never changed in that we work hard but we have fun. I think that’s a good balance to have when you're coaching, because you actually enjoy getting out and going to work.”
Initially a part-time role, the Vixens assistant coach position was made a full-time job in 2021, allowing Honey to step away from Geelong Grammar after 16 years and dedicate herself fully to the elite program.
In addition to supporting McKinnis, Honey is responsible for managing the training partners, working with Netball Victoria staff, and focusing on the attack end on game day.
“A lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that Simone doesn't need to know about!” Honey said. “I’m like the glue of the team … I just love it. It doesn't feel like a job, and that's a good thing.”
Melbourne Vixens player Emily Mannix first met Honey in 2009 when the defender was 15 years old. At the time, Honey had recently taken up the role as head netball coach at Geelong Grammar and saw the need to recruit new talent on scholarships to improve their netball program.
“I went from Wesley who were very successful and then I went to Geelong Grammar and my first game against Wesley was 65-5,” said Honey.
“I went out to have a look when she played one of the Association Championships days,” said Honey. “There was just something about her … I remember telling Simone, ‘This kid I’ve got at Grammar, she's going to be okay.’”
Stories like these aren’t uncommon among Victoria’s netball players and are testament to Honey’s impact on the pathway.
Mannix was eventually signed to the Vixens as a contracted athlete in 2015, and like Honey, she’s been at the club ever since.
As an athlete, Mannix has been able to observe Honey and McKinnis’ relationship firsthand. She describes Honey as the “cool, calm and collected coach” and the yin to Simone's yang. “It's good to have a little bit of both in terms of that coaching role,” Mannix said.
Mannix has now known Honey for almost 15 years, and regardless of the environment they've been in, she says the coach has always stayed true to herself.
As a player, Mannix knows she can always rely on Honey for a chat or some tough love.
“She hasn’t tried to change into something that she’s not,’ said Mannix. “She’s unlike anyone I've ever met – as a coach and as a person.
“Di’s always been so supportive of me and someone I can always go to … Hopefully she's around the Vixens for a lot longer.”
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