South rising to the challenge of the Deep South
The goal remains the same for South despite opening their Beko Netball League campaign with three losses.
“Be patient, be earnest, be together,” says co-coach Georgie Salter, “that’s what we are about.”
It sounds simple but for a region facing more challenges than most, it is an important goal based on resilience.
Travel is a big factor South contends with which is not limited to just games hosted by their opponent at other ends of the country.
“Even when we play at home in Invercargill we have team members travelling two, three, five hours to get here,” Salter said. “We are one of the biggest regions in terms of catchment so it’s always going to be something we need to consider.”
But Salter believes it will prepare her athletes for the challenges of the professional game further down the track.
“This environment is tough but as I say to the girls, they’re not going to get it harder than they do now. This league is about development and learning and I believe we are giving them the tools to take their game to the next level.”
South has so far netted two narrow defeats to the Northern Marvels and the high-flying Waikato-BOP followed by a loss to Central.
This weekend they host the Northern Comets at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill where Salter wants to see her charges maintain intensity, be safe with their possession and land their goals.
“We have had some fantastically close games and it is certainly putting the challenge out there for our girls to sustain their performance throughout a match,” she said.
“We are seeing just how much these players want to develop, their willingness to learn and their desire to play. That’s all positive.”
It hasn’t been so easy for Salter’s co-coach, former Silver Fern Donna Wilkins.
“Donna doesn’t like losing,” Salter says with a laugh. “But that’s why we work so well together because she’s always there with that extremely competitive edge.”
Juggling the needs of their ‘big sister’ team in the ANZ Premiership can bring its own challenges as players’ workloads must be considered, but Salter has no qualms when heeding the call of the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.
“It’s not hard when you look at the big picture.”
And that is to see her players push hard to make the step up to the ANZ Premiership.
Salter has seen a number of her squad from last year finding their feet in New Zealand’s elite domestic competition this season and has been thrilled to watch their progress.
Shooter Jennifer O’Connell, goal attack Olivia Bates and mid-courter Dani Gray all featured for South at the Beko Netball League level last year while this season South mid-courter Kendall McMinn has already had court time at the top level.
Meanwhile, in other Beko Netball League matches this weekend, the Northern Marvels host Central at the Auckland Netball Centre while a top-of-the-table clash will take place at the EA Networks Centre in Ashburton on Sunday when Heller’s Mainland host competition leaders Waikato-BOP.