21/04/2024
Briony Akle and Bec Bulley (R) hold the Suncorp Super Netball trophy after the Grand Final.

Briony Akle and Bec Bulley (R) hold the Suncorp Super Netball trophy after the Grand Final. Image: NSW Swifts / Twitter

Bec Bulley was a big part of the NSW Swifts Premiership. She was also a driving force in player development, and has plenty of hope for the future.

The NSW Swifts have been crowned Suncorp Super Netball premiers for 2021. A thrilling grand final win was unlocked by a masterful defensive effort, as the Swifts defensive end of Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau delivered again.

Bec Bulley was a star defender in her time as a player. She played for both the Swifts, and later the Giants across a long and decorated playing career, including playing under current Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald at both the Swifts and the Giants.

After she retired in 2018, Bulley slotted into the Giants coaching group, as a development coach and the leader of the Giants Netball Academy. At the end of the 2020 season, she moved across to the Swifts.

The Defensive Teacher

Her insight was immediately clear, as Turner and Klau have set the standard for the season from the beginning. After the grand final yesterday, Swifts head coach Briony Akle paid tribute to Bulley.

Briony Akle (L) and Bec Bulley have formed a formidable coaching duo throughout the year. Image: NSW Swifts

Turner and Klau spearheaded the best defence in netball this season, as they conceded the second-fewest points in the league, and managed to hold opposition shooters down when it mattered.

“I think she breathes success,” Akle said. “Every team she’s been a part of in her playing career, and in her coaching career, they’ve done well, and… she’s relentless.”

READ MORE: Rebecca Bulley: Part of the fabric of this grand final

The Swifts’ coach explained the impact that Bulley has had on coaching group, and the team as a whole since she joined at the start of the season.

“She’s all about what you want in your team, and to have her by my side, is super special. She just wants the best for these guys and we work really well together,” she said.

Bec Bulley’s experience with the Giants, and her insight into the young Giants, and particularly Dwyer’s and Hay’s play came to the fore.

Turner, the Player of the Match was pulled off the court late in the second quarter, and clearly Turner and Bulley had something to discuss.

Bulley’s defensive insights were key to the Giants’ 2020 campaign. Image: Giants Netball

READ MORE: The Super Netball Grand Final – How the match was won

Before the game, Bulley hinted to The Inner Sanctum that her coaching experience with the Giants wasn’t going to conflict with her hopes for the weekend.

“I can certainly appreciate that they are great players,” Bulley said. “They’ve got a lot of potential to make Diamonds in the future.

“I’ll certainly be hoping they don’t pull out a good performance this weekend,” the coach said.

And so it showed, as Bulley’s plan to slow down Dwyer was put into effect, and Turner and Klau executed it brilliantly.

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The Big Picture

Bulley spoke to The Inner Sanctum, and explained that the admiration that Akle has for her is very much mutual.

“I love working with Briony, she’s a great coach and I’ve learned so much from her, and the players are awesome too,” Bulley said.

Bulley is not yet exactly sure what her future holds, with so much about next season up in the air, but she knows where she would like to be.

“I’d definitely love to be a part of the Swifts,” she explained. “I hope that’s where I’ll be next year.”

Bulley is also a mother, and has been travelling this season with her children. The environment at the Swifts has allowed her to manage the difficulties of parenting, home schooling and coaching in the hub while her husband Randall has remained in Sydney.

“I feel really fortunate that I was able to bring my children into the hub,” the mother/teacher/coach explained.  

“It’s worked out that [Bulley’s oldest daughter Indie] could still do home schooling, because obviously school is online at the moment, so it’s a bit of a juggle.”

“It definitely has its challenges, but I just feel like it would be so much harder and so much more challenging if I was away from my children,” Bulley said.

She’s had the benefit of a babysitting service, in the form of her playing group, who have been all too happy to help.

“I think why I’m so happy that the two New South Wales teams are in the grand final is because we’re the teams that have been through so much this year,” she continued.

“We’ve uprooted our lives, our families and I think we don’t want to go home without achieving something.”

And while Bulley has managed to keep her kids on track with school, she reflected that some up and coming players may have been struggling with their netball development recently.

“It’s hard because we haven’t had that second-tier level now for two years,” the development coach explained.

“That’s really tough for those girls that are just a tier below that want exposure to Super Netball-level coaches and want that match play at that level, so it is certainly hard for them and their development.

Bulley’s mentorship was on show to Amy Sligar and Violet Westeyn (R) while coaching the Giants Academy. Image: Giants Netball

“I think it’s good that Netball Australia do have this Australian Development squad program in place.”

Bulley is well aware that despite that development plan, it will still be a challenge for many of those up and coming players.

“At this stage, it’s just a question of how much we’re going to be able to provide to [the development players] because of the current COVID situation with borders and things,” she said.

“I definitely see the potential and I just don’t know if we’re going to get what we want to get out of it at the moment in the current climate.”

And while Bulley has no formal responsibilities for development for the next little while, with so much to unfold, there will be plenty left in the story.

As she looks back on her first year back with the Swifts, that ended with a premiership, there’s plenty to have enjoyed.

But for now, the legend of two clubs has only further enhanced her reputation, and that of those around her, a true developmental masterpiece.

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