In the new GIANT In Their Field podcast series, GIANTS AFLW player Chloe Dalton steps away from the field to chat to women in the business of sport.
These interviews take a deep dive into the experiences, successes and failures of women across a range of industries, to find out what it is that makes them a GIANT in their field.
Australian netball’s most experienced coach Julie Fitzgerald discusses the growth of professional netball, the creation of the GIANTS netball team, and the most important elements of creating a successful team culture.
Julie Fitzgerald “never dreamt” of the opportunity to become a professional netball coach. As a young girl playing the sport, she first put her hand up to coach to give back to the game.
“I didn’t think it would happen in my term with the game. I grew up with the sport, but never dreamt that I would get to make a living out of it,” Fitzgerald said (6 minutes).
Growing with the game has also meant Fitzgerald has seen the change in professionalism within the sport. She reflects on the standards of professionalism in 1997, “Everyone involved was still working fulltime or studying fulltime.”
“We’d be lucky to get there and start by 7, so they’d be finished by 9 or 10[pm] and home very late, and not eating a proper dinner, very different from what it is now.”
After a successful stint in New Zealand with the Waikato Bay-of-Plenty Magic, Fitzgerald was delighted with the opportunity to return to her home in Sydney as the head coach of the new netball team in NSW.
“At that point in time, we didn’t have a name, a colour, a sponsor – nothing,” she said (21 minutes).
“The excitement of being able to put that together and to come home again to family and back to my house, I couldn’t ever have resisted that.”
“What we love about the GIANTS is that we get to be a part of something bigger… we love the fact that it’s one club, three teams.”
“You only get to create culture once, it was very important that I chose girls that I knew would fit in to the culture that would make us successful.”
“When we first merged with the GIANTS, Phil Davis came in and sat down with us all to talk about what their culture was all about, it fitted in really nicely with what we had already established would be our culture.”
Fitzgerald was pleasantly surprised by the adaptability of her players during the pandemic that significantly impacted the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
“We made a conscious effort to remind ourselves that there were people at home who no longer had a job, or were locked away in isolation, and we were lucky to still be doing what we loved.” (29 minutes).
The word retirement is a daunting one for Fitzgerald, and one that is not yet on her radar, but she hopes that when the time does come, she will have left a lasting impact at the club.
“I hope when I walk away from the GIANTS, I leave a legacy, and they continue to be a successful club with the values that we established.”