By Ripu Bhatia

Stuff Pou Tiaki

17 Mar, 2023


Tia Winikerei (Ngāti Maniapoto) is enjoying a successful start to her tenure as head coach of the Northern Mystics.

The netball team that represents Auckland and Northland has two wins from its first two games this season and sits at the top of the ANZ Premiership table.

Winikerei has brought a fresh approach to the coaching role, incorporating whakaaro Māori (Māori thinking) which she said is proving effective at building team unity.

Winikerei was a police officer for 16 years before she turned to coaching netball full time.

“The main things that are similar are around leadership, coaching and training, teamwork and working under pressure,” she said.

She has played netball since childhood and competed at senior club and representative level.

“I’ve got a love for team sport and the relationships and the social connection that it has, but also for the competitive nature at which you can compete in netball in this country,” Winikerei said.

Winikerei incorporates whakaaro Māori (Māori thinking) in her coaching which is proving effective at building unity.

Winikerei incorporates whakaaro Māori (Māori thinking) in her coaching which is proving effective at building unity.

“I’ve always been involved, and I love the game. It’s fast and exciting and dynamic.”

Winikerei was an apprentice coach at the Mystics for two years before being appointed as head coach in August last year.

“The expectation and the pressure is certainly high, the responsibility rests with the head coach always,” she said.

Whakaaro Māori (Māori thinking) is a personal touch that Winikerei has incorporated into the coaching role.

“It’s difficult to describe for me because I am Māori, and so I have a way of thinking, a life experience of being that person,” she said.

“It’s simply through that experience that I’ve implemented the things that are important to me, and it’s important to me that everyone can be themselves within our Mystics environment.”

She said the principles of kotahitanga (unity), whanaungatanga (sense of family connection) and manaaki (support and care) are important to her.

“The unity and the working of the collective are really important… and how people interact and work with each other are vitally important to groups of people or teams,” she said.

“The other piece that I think is really critical is the manaaki that you show to one another… because you bring a whakapapa with you, so it’s important that those things are celebrated and acknowledged.”

Winikerei said one of the strengths of Mystics has always been the diversity of the group.

“The values which underpin our team, the strength that we bring to one another, the energy that we bring to one another and the manaaki that we show… those are the key things that hold our team in good stead,” she said.

“That’s the foundation of the Mystics way. Who you are is what you bring to the group.”

The Northern Mystics will play the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic at the Globox Arena in Hamilton on Sunday.