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Marvellous Marg Molina

The recently retired Marg Molina AM was Wesley’s Head Coach of Netball for 28 years, her appointment stretching back to the last decade of the previous millennium. Dawson Hann appraises her marvellous career.

Marg celebrating success with her 2019 Premiership-winning team

Marg has been comprehensively a ‘Wesley person’ in every way, which may not have seemed likely to her when she sat down before a selection panel of Wesley heavyweights in 1993, headed by then Principal Glen McArthur, as part of his initiative to appoint Head Coaches in all major sports. In a most disarming and non-modern fashion, she had arrived without a resume.

It was fortunately an era before dot points were employed to test character and suitability. While Sports secretary Jill Zelman furiously typed up an appropriate document outside in the office, Marg clearly gave the interviewers all that they wanted to hear. Former Head of Prahran campus Tony Conabere always displayed a sharp eye for ‘the right person’; he instantly found a teaching role for her (one of the requirements) and she started within a week. Wesley has been blessed ever since by the effortless speed of that appointment.

Marg is the last of all those Head Coaches appointed nearly three decades ago still to be at her post upon retirement. David Ackerley (Head of Football) is still on staff, but not in his original role. Marg has carried on her Netball role right to the end, so gets the gong. Sorry Ackers! In 2016, she finally gave up her classroom role in Individual Needs, which became as crucial to her enjoyment of the school as the more high-profile sporting job.

No wonder Marg overlooked the small matter of a resume at her interview; her work with Victorian and Australian netball spoke for itself. She had been with the Victorian team for 12 years, and a decade with the Australian team, coaching in the latter at under-age levels, and eventually managing the Australian Under 21 side. She finished her career with Netball Australia as manager of the national team, the Diamonds, and was ultimately rewarded for her outstanding contribution in helping to grow the game nationally – as a player, coach and administrator – with a Membership of the Order of Australia.

Her netball artistry, along with her engaging and empathetic personality, would be cherished by a generation of our girls. Never one to blow her own trumpet, Marg will tell you that she really can’t remember how many premierships were won under her leadership, but reluctantly concedes ‘there were quite a few’ (including the trifecta of ‘three in a row’… twice, as it turns out).

Marg was crucial in making netball an intrinsic and admired part of the Wesley sporting culture. The love of the game, both from Marg and our girls, was comprehensively on display at every match. She was never darkened by the possibility of defeat, knowing always the significance of team sport in the building of young lives.

Thank heavens she didn’t have a resume at her initial interview, nor had a PowerPoint presentation of qualities that can’t be codified. Marg’s authenticity must have been felt by all those on the panel. And it wasn’t all about the game. Marg also arrived with a trio of qualifications in Individual Needs and, right to the end, happily confirms how much working in the classrooms of English, Humanities and Maths provided her with a very different but equally inspiring integration into the broader Wesley culture, which she understood and loved from the first.

She has appreciated, as much as any, the notion of the collective community which is one of the school’s truly continuous strengths – somewhere in our school there is something for everyone. She stresses time and again how working with students struggling in an academic sphere, but with talents elsewhere and even unknown, enlivened all that she had ever believed about a ‘true education’, giving meaningful life to an abstraction.

Marg coaching on the front court

Her netball artistry, along with her engaging and empathetic personality, would be cherished by a generation of girls.

In addition to the respect and affection of more than a generation of students needing extra personal care, as well as all those girls playing netball, Marg was popular amongst her Common Room colleagues, long and short term, young and, well, older. She thrived on the fellowship of Common Room functions, took an interest in the political issues at any given time, shed light on them with cogent thinking, and simply enjoyed being a highly functioning cog in the wheel of greater Wesley. She also happily revelled in the broader cultural life of the school, especially the performing arts, and was regularly in the audience for concerts and dramatic performances. In other words, she took every opportunity offered by this expansive community
to enrich her own life.

Marg will carry many great memories into her post-Wesley life, and will doubtless continue to enjoy them, perhaps none more than one particular story she tells about the second of the four Principals she has served under. David Loader is fondly remembered for some occasionally exotic and spontaneous demonstrations of the respect and affection he held for those who had rendered the school important service. Apparently, when he encountered
Marg by chance on his various campus wanderings, he would fall quickly to his knees, extend his hands upwards in the manner of an evangelical supplicant, and chant loudly ‘Netball! Netball!’. This became quite a regular eccentric moment in Marg’s daily life. What was he meaning? Let us humble our lesser selves before the Marvel that is Marg? A touch over the top, maybe, but we get the point.

Dawson Hann is a features writer and former Editor of Lion.

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