Simone McKinnis hits 150 games as National League coach

Simone feature website
11 months ago

Melbourne Vixens head coach Simone McKinnis OAM has coached her 150th National League game in the opening round of the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball Season.

Written by Amelia Barnes

2023 marks McKinnis’ 11th year at the Victorian Institute of Sport as the Vixens head coach. She assumed the role in 2013 during the ANZ Championship era, subsequently guiding the Vixens to two premiership titles in 2014 and 2020, and minor premierships in 2017 and 2022.

McKinnis says the league has grown over that period to become the “toughest, strongest competition there is.”

“There's nothing between teams on any given day and you have to perform week in, week out… It's just the best of the best.”

Highlights of McKinnis’ elite coaching career to date include the first SSN season where the relatively young team finished as minor premiers, and the 2020 season living and playing in the COVID-19 hub. “It was such a unique experience – the good times, the laughs, and the not so good times – but obviously to win a premiership, that was one of my favourite years.”

McKinnis celebrates her 150th game milestone alongside four Vixens players she’s coached for their entire professional domestic careers: co-captain Kate Moloney who debuted for the club in 2013, followed by co-captain Liz Watson and Jo Weston in 2014, and vice captain Emily Mannix in 2015.

Watson recalls her first time meeting McKinnis at a training session. “I remember I kept falling over in that session because I was so nervous!” Watson said. “She still scares me, but I think that’s a good element to have in a coach. I’ve come to realise how much she cares about everyone in her team as people before netballers, which is really important.”

Watson says the retention and development of Vixens players is a testament to the culture McKinnis has fostered at the club. “It's such a nice environment to be a part of, and the staff love it too… She wants everyone to feel like a family at the Vixens.”

McKinnis hopes the playing group see her as a “tough but fair” coach who always has their best interests at heart. “I love that I have an influence on the development of the athletes I work with,” she said. “I love to see players making it through to the Diamonds and being on the international stage. There's so much reward.”

Not one to dwell on milestone games, McKinnis has her sights set on the season ahead, with the aim of a premiership title. “Just because you make a grand final one year doesn't mean you’re automatically in the next,” she said. “There's certainly areas of improvement individually and as a team that we have to improve on.”

The Vixens will face the Magpies in the Victorian Derby this weekend, followed by their first official home game at John Cain Arena against GIANTS Netball on Sunday 2 April.

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