Lisa Alexander has been appointed as London Pulse’s new performance director and head coach, as she joins CEO Sam Bird at the helm of the ambitious Vitality Netball Superleague franchise.
In February 2020 it was announced that Alexander’s contract as the Australian Diamonds’ head coach would not be renewed by the board of Netball Australia. She had led the Australian national side for more than eight years and had become the most-capped Diamonds head coach of all time.
Alexander completed her tenure with an 81 per cent win record (83 victories from 102 Tests) and had led the side to multiple major medals including golds at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and at the Netball World Cup in 2015.
More recently, the Diamonds had won silver medals at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup.
She became Australia’s most capped coach, surpassing Jill McIntosh’s total of 94 caps, during the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool
Alexander is the first Diamonds head coach to have ever reach 100 Test caps and did so during the 2019 Constellation Cup competition
In total, Alexander has led the outfit 102 times and secured 83 wins during that time (a win/loss ratio of 81 per cent)
The head coach led the side to six straight Constellation Cup wins and since 2011, maintained their position as the No 1 ranked side in the world
“What Lisa’s experience will bring in is that extra platform and level of performance that happens day in and day out behind the lights,” Bird said to Sky Sports’ Caroline Barker.
“It’s the work that comes before you get to see us on Sky Sports, that’s what’s going to make the difference.
“It’s really exciting. Obviously, having so many young England players in our squad, we want to develop them so we can start beating the Aussies and the Kiwis!”
“The world is their oyster, definitely,” Alexander added. “It’s part of the plan to work on the real robustness that top athletes need to be the very, very top.
“It is hard work and part of it is the discipline of learning what high performance is all about. It’s doing the hard yards when no-one is watching and not necessarily getting the reward straight away.
“The dreams of these young athletes, we need to harness those dreams at London Pulse and help guide and shape them into the next generation of English Roses, who are going to win Championships consistently, because they should be.
“Really, because of the population in England and the number of players playing netball in England – which is going to rise – the expectation should be that England are going to win world titles, Commonwealth Games gold medals and possibly Olympic Games gold medals [in the future].
“We need to dream that big. London Pulse needs to dream big too, about winning the Vitality Netball Superleague. It’s important that we have those really high goals and aspirations, but at the end of the day, it’s my job along with Sam to help guide those young athletes along that pathway.”
So, how did this new partnership between Bird and Alexander come about? Well, it was actually born from the world of social media and direct messaging on Twitter.
The two women had been messaging for a while about different players and elements of the game, before the conversation moved to something more serious and the potential of Alexander joining Pulse.
“It just blew me away; I hadn’t even thought of it and didn’t know it was out there as an option, because of course Sam is head coach of London Pulse so I thought that they already had a coach!”
As the conversations became more serious, Alexander quickly realised that it was an “exciting offer” and despite also exploring other options in the UK, she focused in on a road forwards with Pulse.
“It’s the sort of role that’s exactly correct for me at this stage of my career in netball and for me personally [too].”
When something finishes, and you don’t necessarily want it to finish, it’s always hard. That’s the same for players, coaches, umpires, anyone involved in sport when their time is up, it’s always a shock. It is a sad time. I’ve needed this time off to process all of that because it was such an intense 10 years.
Lisa Alexander about leaving the Australian Diamonds
Bird and Alexander have already been frank with each other and have a good idea about what’s to come too.
“I was able to ask Sam straight up who is boss basically, for want of a better word! In today’s leadership environments, often leadership is driven by teams, but at the end of the day, somebody has to make the final decision. I understand that very well as a previous head coach.
“So, as the performance director, yes, I am Sam’s boss really in the netball world. However, in the business world and the sport business world of London Pulse, Sam is my boss because she’s the CEO.
“From my point of view, I find it a really interesting and creative way for us to work together. We will make it work because both of us are motivated to make it work. We’ve both done our homework on each other too I think!”
The Vitality Netball Superleague has been saying for a few years now that it wants to be stronger and better. We took a view, maybe about a year ago, that the right way to do that is to bring in the best people.
Sam Bird – London Pulse CEO
Alexander’s move to London also allows her and husband Malcolm to be closer to her stepsons, with one living in London and the other in Italy.
Friend and fellow professional head coach Eddie Jones also resides here due to his role with England Rugby and Alexander knows he will be keen to join forces.
“It will be great. We will definitely be accessing Eddie’s knowledge as much as we can. He’ll love to come over and watch us coach netball because he learns a lot from that, and I assume he’ll invite us over as well.”
Like Jones, Alexander’s contact book is filled with outstanding professional athletes and as is often the case, many fans’ minds will move to ‘big imports’ that she may or may not call upon.
Both Alexander and Bird have the same view on import players, in that there needs to be a clear role for them at the club.
“I’m always concerned about a club relying just on imports, I don’t think that it always happens [works well],” Alexander said.
“I’ve got some pretty good examples of observing the Super Netball in Australia, particularly if you compare Sunshine Coast Lightning and their development with Collingwood.
“Collingwood really tried to put a bunch of imports/champions, together and it just didn’t work. Whereas, Sunshine Coast Lightning deliberately went out and not only used the local talent, but also married that up with some fantastic imports at the time, which was Geva Mentor at the time and Caitlin Bassett.
“So, I am into developing talent. I have always been about that and that’s the thing that most excites me about this opportunity; it’s to work with the young English talent.
“I’ve got a bit of an idea of how that’s done from my Australian practice and pedigree as a coach but I’m also excited to learn what England knows and understands about coaching and pathways.”
I think that with the two heads together – ying and yang – Sam and I, we’ll work out something pretty special and creative. This will give us the confidence to really build those young English athletes at London Pulse into the next Roses, which is what I want to be a part of.
“The Vitality Netball Superleague has been saying for a few years now that it wants to be stronger and better. We took a view, maybe about a year ago, that the right way to do that is to bring in the best people,” Bird said.
“There’s been a lot of talk about it, but somebody has to start doing something about [strengthening the league]. We do lose our best players to the Suncorp in particular, but also George Fisher is playing out in New Zealand.
“For us, this is about putting the best coaching and performance platform in so that the players stay here, develop here.
“When they’re coming in at the age of 14, I would love their ambition to be that they want to play for London Pulse and win the Superleague, and then I want to win for the Roses. Rather than, always looking across the pond to automatically play abroad.”
The next stop for Bird and Alexander will be announcing the squad that they have selected for the forthcoming Vitality Netball Superleague season.