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Southern netball dealt a double blow

Last updated 15:01 31/01/2009

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The Southern Steel netball franchise has been dealt a double blow as coach Robyn Broughton tries to assemble a title-winning squad for the inaugural ANZ Championship next year.

The combined Southland-Otago franchise will be minus Silver Ferns captain Adine Wilson and former Silver Ferns shooter Belinda Colling as it looks to stamp its mark on the new era of netball and continue the success of Southern Sting.

It was revealed after the Silver Ferns' world championship finals loss to Australia on Saturday night that Wilson is 14 weeks' pregnant, which has also ruled her out of next year's trans-Tasman competition. Wilson, who was tipped to lead Steel in its first season, had already advised Broughton she was pregnant so it hadn't come as a complete surprise as player recruitment starts to heat up for next year.

"I actually knew about that so I've had a bit of time to plan," Broughton said yesterday.

"She's going to be a huge loss, but she's not lost from netball altogether. It's just her time. She's decided she wants to start a family and I think the girls need to do that.''

Broughton said while Wilson wouldn't take part on the court next year she hoped to call on her for advice throughout the competition.

While Broughton was aware of Wilson's situation, she admitted not having the services of Colling next year had come as a shock.

Colling had indicated recently _ after having a year off netball to have her second child _ that she had planned to restart her career next year and was in training to play for the southern franchise.

However, Colling told The Southland Times yesterday her netball playing days were over, as she and her rugby-playing partner Charlie Hore head to France.

The first five-eighth failed to regain a Super 14 contract with the Highlanders for next year and was also cut from his contract with the Otago Rugby Union, forcing him to look elsewhere for professional rugby opportunities.

Hore has already departed for France, where he has linked up with the US Dax club, which also has Southland lock Kane Thompson on its roster.

Colling and the couple's two children will join Hore in France soon, which has ruled her out of a possible return to netball.

Relief for Broughton in the shoot ing circle won't come in the form of the experienced Donna Wilkins, who has also confirmed she will not play in the ANZ Championship at the completion of her basketball commitments with the Christchurch Sirens next year. The unavailability of leading southern netballers will result in the biggest test in Broughton's remarkable coaching career, which has included leading Sting to seven national titles. "I've had some challenges before and this is just another one," she said yesterday, talking about head ing into next season minus some key players.

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With the world championships over, Broughton said the next fortnight would be a hectic time for the New Zealand franchises as they pull together their respective squads.

She was confident there was enough depth in Southland and Otago netball to cover for the key losses and said the emphasis would be on developing an environment similar to the one that made Sting so

- The Southland Times

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