Some of Southland's top touch players are taking the time to give back to the sport; sharing their knowledge with the region's up-and-coming talent as the representative season approaches.
New Zealand representative touch players Scott Eade, Courtney O'Callaghan and Lisa Dyer, along with Touch Southland development officer and former South Island touch representative Alissa Light have all come through Touch Southland's junior programme. This season all four will coach junior Southland teams in a move Touch Southland manager Warren Bryant says can only benefit the sport.
"These players not only have talent on the field, but they also have fantastic experience and knowledge of the game off it, so it's great that they are prepared to share that with our junior Southland teams," Bryant said.
"Scott, Courtney, Lisa and Alissa have all come through our junior representative programme, and have been really successful. It's great that they are taking the time to help develop more talent within the region and the younger players will gain plenty from their involvement."
Touch Southland's junior representative grades range from under-11s through to under-17s and include boys, girls and mixed teams, with more than 200 players involved.
The under-11 and under-13 boys, girls and mixed teams, along with the under-15 and under-17 boys and girls teams, will all compete in the South Island championships being played in Christchurch in mid-December.
The under-12 boys and girls teams will compete in the Northern Central Interprovincial Series in Palmerston North.
All teams will start their buildup on October 16, with trainings every Wednesday night at Turnbull Thomson Park from 6pm, as well as two-hour training sessions on Sundays.
Bryant said with a high calibre of coaches, talented players within the ranks and a high standard to uphold - Southland won the South Island Interprovincial Cup in 2011 - the season ahead promised to be another good one for the region's youngsters.
"Southland has a really good reputation at representative level and, with the help of our four new coaches and their experience at national level, all of our teams will be more than capable of maintaining that reputation with some good results this season," he said.
"It's also good to see a lot of our top touch players also playing at a really high level in other sports, such as rugby union and sevens. The skills they gain through touch don't just get them higher honours in our sport, but also work well with other sports."
Since 2011, Southland has had 16 players represent New Zealand in touch and that's a record Bryant believes will only grow as the talent continues to develop.
- The Southland Times