Double act a winner, says Hamilton
Tonight's Southland Wide League netball final between the St Mary's Men team and United will be a win-win situation for Sarah Hamilton.
The former Sting defender has a foot firmly in each camp - as a player for United and, for the past four years, coach of the men's team.
"That's become my favourite saying in the last week - it's a win-win situation," Hamilton said.
After preparing the men's side, which lost last year's club final to Ex High, during the week she'll have her final conversation with St Mary's Men manager Angee Shand about 3pm today and then put the team into her hands.
"Since I've started I've always treated it the same way. One team I play for and the other I give the game plan to and let Angee run them," Hamilton said.
"She's had the men's team for the last 10 years, if not 15. Having worked together for the last four years, we've got the same approach. She knows them well enough to make the changes as she sees fit."
That's not to say that it's easy for Hamilton to switch off her role as coach when she's in the opposition.
"I have to stop myself cheering for them, in some ways. I'll allow myself a little smile when I see them do something good. For example, when we played them in the round robin I could see a change Angee had made the goal attack instigate and I just smiled because it's what we'd been working on in training. She was using my game plan against me," Hamilton said.
"It's almost a personal challenge to the guys as well. Because I'm their coach, they want to show me they can do the things we've been working on during the season. It's good fun, I love it. Selfishly, I wouldn't want to miss out on the challenge the guys provide in terms of their physical capabilities. I love playing against them."
United caused an upset in the semifinals, beating defending champions Ex High, who had lost only one game all season.
The United team is made up mainly of former Southland representatives, including the likes of Hamilton, player-coach Reinga Te Huia and Donna Wilkins who have all played at national league level, or in Wilkins' case, much higher.
Having played with and against each other for a long time, the United players choose to keep their training to a minimum during the season.
"It's brilliant. It's that understanding you have from years of playing with each other, or just playing pure netball, coming together and finding your niche within that team. There is no better motivator than Donna, she's incredible. We all have things we like to do, but Donna brings out the best," Hamilton said.
The St Mary's Men team will head next month to the New Zealand men's and mixed netball association's national championships in Wellington, where they will be hoping to go one better than their runner-up finish in the second division last year.
- The Southland Times