Moving to Netball Central to follow her dream, Natalie Milicich couldn’t have asked for a better outcome after being named Performance Coach of the Year in the 2017 Netball New Zealand (NNZ) Coaching Awards.

There was cause for double celebration in the Netball Central Zone when Taranaki’s senior representative women’s coach Che Tamati was named Community Coach of the Year in the new award system introduced by NNZ this year to honour the country’s top coaches.

Leaving her husband and children to hold the fort in Auckland, former finance manager Milicich, who also held a strong resume in her first love, netball coaching, jumped at the opportunity to take on the head coach role of the Central Beko Netball League team this year.

``I was surprised no one else had picked her up so we were delighted that she landed with us where her input proved invaluable,’’ Central Director of High Performance Waimarama Taumaunu said.

Milicich thrived in the role, leaving no stone unturned in preparing a well-drilled and polished team of performers who delivered in spades after going through the season with an unblemished record to secure the title.

The experience with Netball Central, where she was also Zone Performance Manager, has led to Milicich’s latest venture as National Coach and Technical Manager of Netball Singapore.``Getting the opportunity to work in Wellington alongside Wai and a host of talented people really gave me confidence and an opportunity to show what I’m capable of,’’ Milicich said.

``It has been a great year and I built some really strong relationships with both the staff and players at Netball Central, so I was just really honoured with the award. When I got the phone call (from NNZ) I was quite surprised and a little bit lost for words, really.

``I made a lot of sacrifices, leaving my husband and children back in Auckland so getting this award has made all that worthwhile.

’’Despite cutting short her time in the Capital to take up the Singapore role, Milicich is grateful for the opportunity provided by Netball Central to reignite her career and relished her time in Wellington.

Currently, she is preparing Singapore for the Nations Cup tournament which will also involve Malaysia, Ireland, Hong Kong, Swaziland and the Cook Islands.

Part of that preparation included a recent build-up tour to New Zealand where former Silver Ferns coach Yvonne Willering added assistance.``I am enjoying it all very much and the transition’s been really seamless,’’ Milicich said.

``You have to take the opportunities as they present and an international opportunity ticks a lot of boxes. My definite goal for the future is to coach in the ANZ Premiership in New Zealand and hopefully this is giving me another positive step on the coaching pathway.

’’Tamati, Taranaki Netball’s 2017 Coach of the Year, was “blown away” when he received the call from Netball New Zealand.“I was both surprised and delighted,’’ he said.

``To be not only the first person to receive this award but also male and from Taranaki gives me a sense of achievement that I feel we all at netball in Taranaki can share in.

”Tamati is working towards his NNZ Performance Coach qualification and this year coached both the East Premier 1 team and the Taranaki Open Representative team – for the second successive season -  through unbeaten campaigns.Tania Heap collected the third award, the Coach Developer title for her work with the Northern Zone.