Meyer to restore glory to Namibian netball

By Michael Uugwanga

HER appointment as the new coach for the Namibia’s senior netball team might have received mixed reviews from lots of netball fans in the country, but Julene Meyer has made a bold statement to netball lovers that she will bring back the glory days, though she is aware of the challenges that await.

Meyer replaced Manuel Tjivera in April this year after Tjivera was asked to relinquish his position at University of Namibia (UNAM) netball club where he is also coach, while at the same time coaching the national team. After Tjivera decided to stay on at UNAM, the board decided to appoint another coach to lead the national team forward.

“It is a privilege and honour to work with the Desert Jewels (national team), the challenge and opportunity are what coaches dream of in their coaching careers. I was approached by the High Performance Board; we negotiated terms and expectations and my appointment was done in April 2019.

“We have a strategic plan outlining the steps and processes over the four years to lay the foundation in terms of players’ ability, moving up the rankings, competing against minors, playing against major netball playing nations, participating at Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, qualifying to the World Cup in 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. My contract ends on 31 December 2023,” said Meyer in an interview with Confidente this week.

Meyer preferred not to be compared to Tjivera, saying she has her own way of coaching which is to create a more conducive environment in the camp, given that it was well documented that some players felt that they were overlooked by the previous administration.

It is also well documented that some players in the past, especially white players, refused to play for Namibia in other African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe due to health concerns over hazards such as malaria and ebola.

“My role as head coach of the Desert Jewels is to create an environment of synergy to optimise each individual player’s contribution to the team, by developing them to maximum potential. Players are very talented but need improvement in various areas, in collaboration with the specialist-, conditioning-, speed coaches and performance analysists we are setting up a system to address these shortcomings.

“My dream is to create an environment where knowledge and expertise are shared at all levels to improve players, coaches, umpires for netball in Namibia to grow, evolve and reach a much wider audience. I wish to create an integrity driven, transparent structure where all players are familiar with the requirements of being a national player to challenge for one of twelve positions on merit irrespective of race, religion or any other constitutional right as international sport is a merciless setting where any and all outcomes are ability- and therefor performance-driven.

“My players know that I am a no-nonsense coach and would not tolerate such behaviour from national players representing Namibia, I will never risk the safety or security of my team or staff members,” she said.

Meyer is a well-qualified and experienced coach but mainly at junior levels.

“No, I never expected to get an opportunity to work with the Desert Jewels as it came as a pleasant surprise. I have been involved mostly in South Africa in the structures over there, being involved in Varsity Cup Campaigns at North-West University (NWU) Pukke, being crowned champions on numerous occasions and also at provincial level with North-West at U-21 and senior level, winning a number of national titles in South Africa.

“My involvement further was technical at higher levels in South Africa in the expertise area of Performance Analysis. Last year I was involved with Dorette Badenhorst to help Botswana at U-21 and national level to improve and prepare themselves for Africa Championships and 2021 Youth World Championships. I hold a Netball South Africa (NSA) level 2 Coaching Qualification and late last year completed my Regional Premier League (RPL) qualification,” Meyer noted.

The 40-year-old played for Namibia at the U-19 level while she was still a primary learner before she went on to play for South Africa’s senior netball team.

“I have Namibian school colours. At the age of 14 I played for the U-19 Namibian Schools team. I was further schooled in South Africa because of a specific set of subject choices I wanted to matriculate in. Later at the University of Stellenbosch under the coaching of Sandra Du Plessis I became a SA U-21 player in 1998, going on to became a Protea in 1999, playing under various SA coaches: Marlene Wagner, Louise Du Plessis, Karin Strauss, Elize Kotze, Australian Jane Searle and Bennie Saayman, under which I played and also captained the Western Cape Tornados, Boland and Western Province teams.

“I was forced to retire on 22 May 2007 at the mercy of a drunk driver who ended my career after a serious car crash in which my left hand was damaged severely without any possibility to compete in any sports again,” Meyer revealed.