Avellino, Southby to coach the Steel

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2011

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Southland's Natalie Avellino is feeling both excited and anxious about the next big coaching challenge awaiting her.

The 40-year-old former Australian international was yesterday named Southern Steel co-coach along with Otago's Janine Southby, who is the coach of the New Zealand under-21 netball team.

The pair replace veteran coach Robyn Broughton, who opted against putting her hat in the ring when Steel decided to advertise the coaching position.

Avellino, who played for Southern Sting during their halcyon days in the National Bank Cup, has slowly made her way up the coaching ladder since retiring from the game in 2007.

Her coaching talents were illustrated in 2008 when she led the Southland NPC team to its first national title in 49 years. She was a technical adviser for the Samoan national team last year and is currently assistant coach of the New Zealand secondary schools team. Avellino mentored Southland in this year's Lois Muir Challenge and coaches the Southland Girls' High School senior A team, where she is a sports co-ordinator.

Avellino has long harboured ambitions to coach in the world's toughest netball competition and was elated to be coaching her local franchise alongside Southby next year.

"I'm excited, but nervous and certainly looking forward to it. Every athlete or coach wants to be in the top competition and I'm really looking forward to being in that coaching role."

Avellino and Southby know each other well having worked with young players at national age-group level before. With both coaches being rookies on the ANZ Championship stage, Avellino admitted it would be good to share ideas and pick each other's brains.

No trans-Tasman netball side has used co-coaches in the competition's four-year history.

Avellino said many teams in the league had a hands-on head coach and an assistant coach and she did not envisage any problems.

"We've seen a lot of teams with a coach and assistant coach working well together. It's an intense competition and we can bounce ideas off each other. It's certainly going to be exciting."

Former Australian international Avellino brings a sound knowledge of both Australian and New Zealand styles of play, which had been a drawcard for the franchise.

Early talks had been held between Steel boss Julie Paterson and the two coaches about their exact roles within the team. Paterson said it was too early to tell whether Avellino would specialise with the shooters and Southby concentrate on the midcourt and defenders.

Southby has carved out an impressive coaching record since working with the Otago Rebels in the final two years of the National Bank Cup. She has been involved with the New Zealand under-21 team for the past three and a half years and was assistant coach of the Fastnet Ferns team, which won gold at the World Netball Series last year. She has also coached Otago at NPC and Lois Muir Challenge level.

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Southby was delighted to be working with Avellino and was determined to help lead Steel back to winning ways after their worst ANZ Championship season.

"I'm pretty excited. It's a very big challenge. I'm really excited by the opportunity. While they only won four games this year, there's a lot of games that were pretty close. They would have been disappointed by those," Southby said.

Southby, Avellino and Paterson will soon start the process of deciding upon the Steel team's makeup for next season. Silver Ferns' defender Leana de Bruin, who was named joint MVP of the ANZ Championship with Queensland's Natalie Medhurst earlier this week, will no doubt be their number one priority.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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