Player-coach can’t lose – with a foot in each camp

JONNY TURNER
Last updated 05:00 16/08/2014

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Player-coach Sarah Hamilton can't lose in next week's Southland-wide netball league grand final.

Hamilton plays goal defence for grand final qualifiers United, and also coaches their opponents, St Mary's Men.

Both teams were victorious in semifinal matches in Gore on Thursday.

Top qualifiers through round-robin competition, St Mary's Men overcame a determined challenge from Ex High to notch a 37-26 victory.

St Mary's held the lead throughout the contest but Ex High kept defensive pressure on the league-leaders and restricted them to their lowest total of the season.

Such was the tightness of the contest that only eight goals were scored in the second quarter.

Defensive pressure and consistent turnovers were the main reasons for the low score, Hamilton said.

Although defeated, Ex High coach Colleen Bond thought her players ''acquitted themselves well.''

Bond was particularly pleased with her team's defensive effort.

''Our defence did very well; we got quite a few rebounds and turnover ball.''

The downside was that her team wasn't able to capitalise on the opportunities it created, Bond said.

Though her team couldn't reach the grand final, Bond was please with the season's effort. The introduction and development of younger players this year was particularly pleasing, she said.

In the second game of the night, United overpowered Southland Girls' High to notch a 60-33 victory and gain a grand final berth.

United showed their class and experience to shut down their younger opponents in most facets of the game.

Girl's High did some ''really good things'' but let themselves down in other areas, their coach Natalie Avellino said.

Avellino was pleased with the team's effort this season against more experienced sides.

''They've stepped up [and] they've done some really good things,'' she said.

United coach Reinga Te Huia wasn't getting carried away with her team's win, despite the impressive score.

''It was a bit ugly at times, but a win's a win and we'll take that,''

Tactical play would be crucial in United's grand final chances against St Mary's Men, Te Huia said.

Te Huia was ''confident enough'' her team could overcome the physical advantage their male opponents have over her side.

Playing ''a short, sharp game and not an aerial game'' was the key to success in the final, she said.

''We need to make sure that we're smart [and] probably just use our heads a bit more than our bodies.''

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- The Southland Times

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