SUNSHINE Coast coach Noeline Taurua says speculation around her and the vacant New Zealand national team post will not be a distraction as the Lightning prepare to storm the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball grand final.
The master coach has been heavily linked to the Silver Ferns job after New Zealand had a disastrous Commonwealth Games campaign on the Gold Coast where they lost to Malawi and missed a medal.
Taurua — a two-time championship winning coach with the Waikato/BOP Magic and the Lightning — is highly regarded in her homeland and is seen as the ideal person to lead New Zealand’s revival ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.
But the crafty Kiwi says the only thing on her immediate agenda is guiding the Sunshine Coast to back-to-back titles with a victory over the West Coast Fever at Perth Arena this Sunday.
“There’s a lot of speculation around what’s happening on the other side of the ditch at the moment but I’m contracted with the Lightning until the end of 2019 so that’s where I’m at, right now,’’ she said.
“My absolute focus is definitely on the grand final and our preparation for the week. The last six weeks we’ve put all our energy into getting into the top four and seeing what we can do once we make it.
“Being the best we can be in the grand final is all that is happening in my life at the moment.’’
Taurua never lost faith in the Lightning’s ability to return to the grand final, even after they lost the opening three matches of their title defence.
“Everything we do with regards to our program is towards being in the big dance,’’ she said.
“We were always very clear where we were. Even though we lost those first three games, we knew through our numbers that we were progressing.
“We had four players back-up from the Commonwealth Games who were a wee bit physically and mentally tired but as the competition wore on, we started to connect better and slowly build to where we are now.’’
While nine of the 10 Lightning players were part of the squad that claimed the 2017 crown, the Fever are relative finals rookies.
West Coast qualified for the grand final and earned hosting rights with a win over the Giants in Sydney after being on top of the ladder for a vast majority of the regular season.
Taurua said the Fever deserved the utmost respect.
“We can’t go into a game like this thinking it’s just going to happen just because we’ve been there and done that. That’s not fair to the Fever,’’ she said.
“While we do have a lot of finals experience on the court, we still have to work really hard over the week and make sure our attention to detail is as good as it can be.
“We won’t change what we do from week-to-week. We are creatures of habit and we’ll look at ourselves first and try to put together the best game we possibly can.’’
Taurua said the “torrid” nature of the elimination final win over the Firebirds and the 59-50 triumph over the Giants in the grand final qualifier on Sunday, was the perfect preparation for a decider.
“When you get into finals, it’s about who wants it. Who keeps the ball in hand and who can get critical turnovers. We’ve been able to do that really well,’’ she said.
“Against the Giants we hung in there, built some momentum and seized control in the third quarter. You need to be able to handle the pressure and the physicality that comes in the finals.’’