There are many stories to be written from this season of Suncorp Super Netball, but none better than the redemption of West Coast Fever head coach Dan Ryan.
Ryan was a head coach under siege at the Adelaide Thunderbirds for two seasons, overseeing the back to back wooden spoons in 2017 and 2018.
Coming to the Thunderbirds in 2011, Ryan was approached by Jane Woodlands-Thompson to join the club as an assistant coach. He then decided to take the opportunity and balanced media and broadcasting commitments, spending four years learning under her. He was apart of the 2013 premiership during his first tenure at Adelaide.
After missing out on the Thunderbirds top job, he accepted a job as the Director of Netball and head coach of Manchester Thunder in the English Superleague. He took the team to a minor premiership before losing the final.
Coming back as a head coach in 2017, Ryan began his time back at with the Thunderbirds winning his first game, followed by a monumental 27 game losing streak.
This was a tough experience for the rookie coach, who was fighting to get a once mighty club back to the finals, however he says that it shaped and made him the coach and person he is now.
After leaving the SSN to spend time honing his craft at Leeds Rhinos in the Vitality Superleague, Ryan has returned home revitalised and looking for a great opportunity closer to home.
He arrived at the Fever and now may be a part of the first ever Western Australian netball side to win a national league title to complete the fairytale homecoming.
In his first year as head coach of the West Coast Fever, he has settled into the role and formed a bond with his SSN players. Being one of the two best teams all season, the Fever looked to be in a position to finish in finals contention from a long way out.
Having players out due to COVID health and safety protocols and vice-captain Jess Anstiss out with a foot injury during the season were not issues for the team as they consolidated a top two spot a few weeks out from finals.
Ryan had completed SSN redemption and showed everyone he was the coach that he believed he was, when the Fever comprehensively beat the Vixens to book their place in the SSN Grand Final two weeks ago.
He spoke ahead of the 2022 decider on Sunday about his journey back to the league.
“I think for me I’ve always taken it moment by moment to be honest, and I’ve made a conscious decision to enjoy every moment that I’m here in this role,” Ryan explained.
“I’ve loved every training session, every meeting, every review session and every game, and all of a sudden we are here in a grand final, so just the mentality of taking the card that’s in front of us this week has been really important.
“I’m proud that the group have made it to the grand final and we’re hungry for one more step and we will be giving it everything we can to do that.”
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The different experiences he has had in the league at the Adelaide Thunderbirds and the West Coast Fever have shaped him and reinforced the person he became.
“I think [the head coaching experiences are] polar opposite experiences when you think about it in context,” he said.
“I’m always a big believer at the end of the day, the hardships, the struggles are the things that make you and I’m certainly a better coach because of the experiences I’ve had in the past.
“I know that will always hold me in good stead and there is great synergy I guess, in myself and the story of West Coast Fever as well. We are really resilient, we are determined and we believe that we can do what we are here to do, so proud to be here and such a privilege I’ve got.”
Heading into the game against the Vixens on Sunday, Ryan spoke about the quality of the netball their opposition are likely to produce and what the Fever are focusing on to combat their strengths.
“We are anticipating we are playing the Vixens at their very best, it’s a grand final, they’ve got quality players all over the court, they know how to win, they will go up and produce some of their best netball, there is no question about that,” Ryan said.
“Our responsibility is to make sure we take care of our own backyard and make sure we are playing our best netball and we know our best netball is very hard to beat and we need to make sure we are able to produce that on grand final day.”
Responding to the call that they are the favourites to win, Ryan explains that they are both in fine form and he expects it will be business as usual for both sides to get the job done.
“I suppose everyone will interpret it differently but I’ve always seen the Vixens as the benchmark team this entire competition,” he explained
“In my opinion, that doesn’t shift too much this grand final, we know we have to play very, very well to beat them and they probably think the same about us too considering how we played in the semi-final.
“At the end of the day, it’s always been about how we approach it and how we think and feel and that won’t shift even though it’s a grand final.”
When assessing where the game will be won or lost, Ryan says it’s not one particular area of the court that’s important because the Vixens shine in every single position. He maintains it’s about putting the pressure on them to give them a chance to win their maiden title.
“I think they’ve got quality in all facets of the game, they are very hard to win the ball off and they’ve got a great defence line that can make you work hard and make you really uncomfortable,” he said.
“They are proving to be really dangerous in the supershot period so there is probably nothing we will be surprised by with the Vixens but certainly we are expecting them at their very best, which will be a great contest.
“There’s no secret, we’ve been really open as a playing group around what we want to achieve this year and to give ourselves a chance.
“An opportunity is something that is most important to us and something we are really proud of and when you are in a grand final, it’s a two horse race, we know anything can happen.
“We know no other Western Australian netball team has ever won a national championship and it’s definitely a driving, motivating factor for us, we are excited by that, we think it’s a great opportunity and it’s up to us to make the most of the opportunity on Sunday.”
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