Time out

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Netball queen puts love first and takes a break after 26 years.

Di Griffiths is enjoying her first regular Saturday morning sleep-ins since taking up netball coaching 26 years ago.

The straight-talker has cut a familiar figure around Queens­town courts in recent times while in charge of two Wakatipu High senior girls’ teams and the now-disbanded Wakatipu men’s side.

Griffiths (nee O’Leary), 47, stepped down from duties at the start of the year to prepare for her wedding in February. Mike Tabb replaced her as the school netball coach.

But the break from her beloved sport will be short-lived.

Next month she travels to England for a six-week stint teaching Kiwi-style moves to British schoolkids at netball camps around the country.

But just to make sure new husband Rhys doesn’t feel left out, the couple will then have an extended honeymoon in Britain and Europe.

“I’ll be going there myself for the coaching side of things as Rhys can’t stand netball,” Griffiths grins. “He’ll then be coming over to join me for a long holiday which will hopefully make up for it.

“I was due at the camps in Britain last year but I couldn’t go because of my coaching commitments in Queenstown and I was also helping organise the men’s national championships, which
we hosted.”

She adds: “I was beginning to enjoy a long lie-in at the weekends after stopping taking the teams but I’m looking forward to getting back to basics while overseas and teaching a few younger kids again.”

After the three-month trip, the gran-of-three – she has two grown-up children from a previous marriage – will return to her job as caretaker at Wakatipu High, where she also drives a schoolbus.

Griffiths shifted to Queenstown from Nightcaps almost six years ago. She is fiercely competitive – as a player she represented Southland not just at netball but at badminton and squash too.

She started coaching at 21 and her skills have taken her to Australia as well as all over New Zealand.

For six years she also worked for Netball NZ as a development officer, visiting schools around the country.

Despite having bowed out of regular coaching, Griffiths was proud to see five teens from Wakatipu High’s top netball side recently gain selection for Southland teams in national tournaments.

“That’s the best performance at that level since I arrived here and I was really pleased for the girls,” she says.

“The kids here are geographically disadvantaged and can’t get to play against their peers from other regions that often because of the distances and costs involved.

“But in spite of that, they keep doing really well and a lot of talent still comes through the high school.”

Griffiths wasn’t sad to see the Wakatipu men’s team disband at the end of last year – she insists they’d achieved what they set out to do.

“When we started up, the goal was to play for five years and host the nationals, and that’s exactly what we did.
“I enjoyed working with the blokes, even though it was hard work because they thought they knew everything.

“It was like having 10 cheeky sons and trying to pull their heads in. But I could keep them in check with just a look.

Despite her netballing achievements in the Wakatipu, Griffiths reckons it’s unlikely she’ll be back urging a team from the sidelines anytime soon.

“I have a new husband and I’m going away for a while so it wouldn’t have been fair to commit to coaching,” she says.

“It was time for a change. I still help out with training at the school when I’m needed and if I ever get withdrawal symptoms, I just get myself along to a game.”