Strong Steel support will lift team in Sydney
Pauline Avellino doesn't even have to think twice when asked who she will be supporting this weekend.
The mother of Southern Steel co-coach Natalie Avellino will have mixed allegiances on Sunday when her hometown New South Wales Swifts take on her daughter's team in the trans-Tasman netball league.
Pauline often attends Swifts home games and watches their matches on television, but will be cheering on the Steel, along with about 20 other friends and family.
"I'm so excited about her coming over and Steel playing against the New South Wales Swifts," Pauline said.
"There's going to be family and friends watching the game, so the Steel will have some support there for sure. Absolutely, we'll be supporting the Steel."
Natalie played for the Sydney Sandpipers in the Australian domestic competition between 1997 and 2002, with current Swifts players Mo'onia Gerrard and Susan Pratley. She admitted it would be a weird feeling to be walking into Sydney's State Sports Centre – the old home of the Sandpipers – as a member of the opposition squad.
"I've grown up playing at the State Sports Centre. I'm really excited about coming up against the Swifts. I never played for the Swifts. I always played against them.
"It's going to be nice to go home. I've got three home games in a row, really."
Former Australian international Avellino has lived in Invercargill since 2006, which means she is able to get back home to visit her family in Sydney only twice a year.
The Avellinos will meet up for dinner tomorrow evening and Natalie said she was excited about catching up with all of her extended family and hopefully gaining an upset win over the Swifts.
"We're quite a close family. I do miss seeing my family and my nieces and nephews. It's always nice to go home.
"Our last two games, we're playing against teams that want to make the finals and we usually rise to the challenge when we're playing a better team. We want to win a game in Australia and this is our opportunity."
Pauline was proud of what Natalie had accomplished during her netball career, and said her daughter was a dedicated trainer, who always strived to be the best she could be.
She said the old goalpost that Natalie used for shooting practice with as a youngster still stood in the backyard of their home in the northwest Sydney suburb of Toongabbie.
"It's been there since she was 12, but it's a bit rusty now," she said, laughing.
"She used to go out and practise shots as much as she could. When she was at the Institute of Sport, she'd get up at 6am and train and shoot her goals."
Pauline Avellino was not surprised her daughter had made the switch from playing to coaching at the end of her career. Even as a player, she was keen to pass on her wisdom and help other people, she said."She did a bit here and there, even when she was in Australia. We always thought she might end up in coaching."
Avellino has had a tough introduction to coaching in the ANZ Championship, with the Steel having lost eight consecutive games, and winning just two of their 11 outings in 2012.
She said it had been a massive step up from anything she had done previously and believed Steel's new-look squad would benefit from the difficult times they had encountered this year.
"Losing is never nice ... It's hard when you lose and the performance hasn't been there.
"It's just disappointing for the team that results haven't gone our way. We've been close so many times. If we had won, we would have been in a different position."
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