Southland U19s eye top-eight spot in age-group tourney

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2012

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The Southland under-19 netball team will be gunning for a top-eight placing when their national age-group tournament begins in Auckland on Monday.

Southland coach Shelley Wilson was happy with the progress her team had been making in training and said they were getting closer to where they needed to be.

They begin the tournament against hosts Auckland 1 and Eastern on the opening day of play, before taking on South Canterbury on Tuesday. The tournament will then move into crossover games on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, with the finals being held on Thursday.

Wilson said the team needed to finish in the top two in their pool to progress to the top half of the draw. She believed her team were capable of that if they played as a unit and did the basics well.

Auckland are always a tough proposition in age-group netball and will be even more of a force on their home court. Southland were beaten by South Canterbury at a warmup tournament in Dunedin two weeks ago, but Wilson said that had been a timely wakeup call and they had been able to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents.

Southland will have to keep a close eye on promising South Canterbury shooter Alice Eddington, who is in the New Zealand secondary schools team and hurt them badly last time they played.

"We definitely want to be in the top half (of the competition)," Wilson said. "It's really important to go out there on the first day and take two of those first three games. We need to hit the court running."

The Southland under-19 side is well balanced across the court, with Verdon College student Lucy Heenan expected to anchor the team at the shooting end.

In the midcourt, Southland have a smart decision-maker in centre Tori Peeters, while Kate Day and Jo Telfer are versatile in several positions.

Wilson said one player to watch out for was wing attack Tatiana Hirovanaa, who is the partner of Southland Stags lock Michael Fatialofa, and had moved from Auckland to Invercargill this year.

In the defensive circle, Southland will be looking for dominant performances from Queenstown-based Lucy Robins and Tegan Hunt.

"One of our biggest strengths is we've got a strong team right through the court," Wilson said.

"They've been making really good links through the court at the last few trainings and making big improvements."

The Fiona Ward-coached Southland under-17 team will prepare for their age-group nationals in Christchurch from July 9-12 with a warmup tournament in Dunedin at the weekend.

Southland will play most of the other South Island teams from today till Monday as they look to fine-tune their combinations and sharpen up their skills.

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The Southland under-17 side features three members of the unbeaten Central Southland College senior A team, who won the Southland secondary schools title earlier this month.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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