Netball: Straight-shooting Foster made of the write stuff

Margaret Foster
Margaret Foster
Margaret Foster sure knows the way around an airport these days. Reporter Steve Hepburn catches up with the Steel assistant coach, who insists she is slowing down.

You always get it plain and straight with Margaret Foster.

That was the way she played the game. And the way she coached.

She used to ride her team's emotions on the sideline, and such was her devotion to her side she was courtside a few years ago for a big final just seven days after having an emergency Caesarean to deliver her son, Xavier.

She once sent a five-page letter to a national coach, explaining how she felt after being dropped.

So, when asked how she is enjoying being an assistant coach to the Southern Steel, she displays that same honesty.

"I'm finding it really hard. Some people are suited to the job of assistant and others aren't. But I don't think I am," she said.

"But you just have to fit in with what needs to be done. You've got to add value to whatever the team needs."

Foster (39) was head coach of the Canterbury Flames but did not get selected to coach the Christchurch-based Tactix after the National Bank Cup ended and the transtasman competition started last year.

She eventually found her way down to the Steel, and this is her first year assisting Robyn Broughton.

The team had a reality check last week against the Melbourne Vixens, going down by 17 goals, its heaviest losing margin.

"We just did not adjust to what was happening out there," Foster said.

"They had a different style of play and there were a few umpiring calls. But we must make sure we know what it takes to play against a team like that.

"We've got a good set of players and we can only go forward from here. We need to be a little bit more consistent with our performance."

Foster said she was not as emotional as she thought she would be when the Steel beat the Tactix in Dunedin earlier this month.

"If anything I felt more for them last night [when the Tactix lost to the Adelaide Thunderbirds in overtime] than playing them perhaps because I am just the assistant coach."

Foster flies to Invercargill every Thursday night for training, stays the night, then returns to Christchurch on Friday morning. She then links up with the team wherever it is playing.

She said she was spending plenty of time in airports, such were the competition's travel demands.

The team has the bye this weekend, but Foster, who is no fan of having a game off, said training would continue, and a game had been arranged against a men's team in Invercargill.

Foster has had a rollercoaster past few years.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and battled through that only to discover the cancer had spread to her ovaries, and treatment had to continue.

"But I got the all-clear the day before Christmas last year. That was a great Christmas present."

She still has six-monthly check-ups and she said if anything the cancer scare had made her reassess things.

"I decided I sort of had to change my lifestyle. I was doing a lot of things and did not have the ability to say no. Now I'm doing a few more things for Marg.

"If I felt tired, that was my body telling me things. It's kind of hard but I feel like I've got a bit of balance in my life. Family is now more important to me."

She is supported by husband Anthony and children Maddie (12) and Xavier (now 4).

Her experience led her to write a book, Silver Linings, which has just been released.

The book's title alluded to the good things that had come from having cancer, and the way it had affected her take on life.

"Belinda Colling had given me the first Lance Armstrong book and then a few colleagues and friends said to me I should do something like that about my story."

The book was half about netball and half about motivation and the fight against cancer.

"When I finished it I gave it to my husband, as I hate reading my own stuff. He is quite a fussy reader so when he said it was all right I was quite excited."

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