New Zealand's Silver Ferns coach Ruth Aitken has been reappointed for another four year term by Netball New Zealand, and says that the challenge of trying to retain her side's Commonwealth Games gold medal encouraged her to "stay in the game".
Aitken, who coached New Zealand to gold in Melbourne, before losing to Australia in the 2007 World Championships final, said that it did not take long to decide to give the job another chance:
"I always knew that the passion was there but I needed to make sure that ...we could take the learnings from the world championships and move forward and that I would still have something to offer."
Leigh Gibbs, who has been part of the New Zealand management team since Aitken was first appointed head coach in 2001, has decided to step aside as New Zealand's assistant coach. A replacement is yet to be named. New Zealand will play reigning World Champions Australia in a home and away series in September, before playing newly named world number three England in New Zealand in October.
One of Aitken's first tasks will be to identify a new shooting partner for Irene Van Dyk after the Jodi Brown (nee Te Huna) ruled herself out of contention for New Zealand selection this year to focus on other aspects of her life.
Brown, 26, said that it was a difficult decision to make but she and her new husband Markham Brown wanted to focus this year on their careers and overseas travel. She will play for the Canterbury Tactics in the inaugural ANZ Championships before travelling overseas. However, she is determined to contest a place in the New Zealand team for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
"I still have unfinished business in netball. I really want to play for the Silver Ferns at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. (If I take a break now) I will be back in plenty of time to train and focus on a Commonwealth Games campaign."
Brown, who has 27 caps since her debut in 2004, missed the 2006 games in Melbourne after suffering a serious knee injury a day before the competition started. After extensive rehabilitation, she worked her way back into the Silver Ferns side and played alongside Van DykAustralia and England, before playing at the Netball World Championships last November. in last summer's internationals against