Northern Stars coach Julie Hoornweg has decided not to seek an extension of her contract with the new franchise to return to her home in Australia.

The former Fiji, England and Melbourne Vixens coach felt the time was right for someone else to pick up the coaching reins having laid the foundations of the new team in this year’s inaugural ANZ Premiership.

The Northern Stars, which represent the south and east of Auckland, have a strong partnership with the High Wire Trust along with some of the best training facilities she had seen.

Hoornweg said it had been a difficult decision to make having enjoyed her time in Auckland and making close connections with players and staff at the Stars.

“It’s been a challenging job starting up a new club and team but one that I’ve certainly enjoyed,” she said.  “I think we’ve set the base for this new team and I’m confident they’re in a good place to keep moving forward.”

Hoornweg said telling the players of her plans to move back to Australia had been tough.

“It’s been a privilege to work with these athletes and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on their progress over the next few years. But the time was right for me to head home and I’m looking forward to spending time with my family,” she said.

Injuries had hamstrung the Stars efforts on court early in the season but the side showed through the middle stages of the league they were a force to be reckoned with, causing a couple of key upsets.

Northern Stars general manager Tim Hamilton said while they were disappointed to lose the experienced coach, they were thankful of the role Hoornweg had played in helping to establish the foundations of the new elite team.  “Julie has been a true asset to the Northern Stars and we wish her well on her return home to Australia.”

On behalf of The Northern Stars Board, Chairman Bill Francis, thanked Julie Hoornweg for the great start she gave the Northern Stars. “Julie’s provided a solid foundation for the future, setting the culture both on and off the court”.

The Northern Stars board will start their search for a new coach immediately to begin preparations for the 2018 ANZ Premiership.