Master coach Fitzgerald still the boss

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Three decades after she first answered to Julie Fitzgerald, netball great Liz Ellis still refers to her old mentor as "coach".

Such is the power of the Giants coach who on Saturday will chase a sixth national title in the Super Netball grand final against the NSW Swifts.

Although Fitzgerald will fight to keep herself away from the spotlight and the players on centre stage, the dominant storyline will follow the veteran coach who won five premierships with the Swifts, crossed the ditch to coach Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic and will now guide the Giants in their second Super Netball decider.

She has tutored members of both camps, including Swifts coach Briony Akle, and has been one of the most influential Australian coaches in any sport of the past three decades.

"When she calls me, even now, I pick up the phone and say 'gday coach'," Ellis said.

Former Australian captain Ellis first played for Fitzgerald in the under-19s at the Ku-ring-gai association in the 90s when she marvelled at how the single mother-of-four would keep her own children occupied on tricycles while her other tribe worked hard on their court craft.

"It's amazing how long she's been around and she still loves it. She still gets that thrill from seeing her players achieve and do what they've been asked to," Ellis said.

"She forms really close bonds with her players and you could see that after the prelimary final with Jamie-Lee Price, who she first coached at the Magic.

"She bloody loves it."

Fitzgerald is the most capped coach in the history of the national league, with the grand final to be her 360th match in charge at the top level.

She boasts the highest winning percentage (66 per cent) of any current coach and has taken her teams to 21 finals series in 24 years.

"I think what Jules has done - I've been doing this for four years - I look at her and take my hat off to her that she is still coaching at this level," Akle said. "And not just coaching, but being super successful.

"I think it's really special that Jules and I are sitting here and no matter what happens we'll be friends afterwards."

Ellis argued Fitzgerald's empathy for her players and capacity to evolve has been her secret weapon.

"She's the sort of coach who worked out early she didn't know everything, and didn't need to know everything," Ellis said.

"That meant she sought answers from her players and that's smart because it gives them ownership."

Few of those Giants players have experienced grand final pressure and the coach wants them to embrace the moment while still keeping their heads.

"Grand finals are very special and I want particularly the young ones to appreciate they don't come around that easily," Fitzgerald said.

"I want them to enjoy everything that goes with it but then to understand that once you get to the game we're back to being our clinical selves."

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