Southland team on mission to return to top level

Last updated 05:00 24/08/2012

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Southland's national provincial championship netball team have undergone a radical overhaul from last season, with just one player returning.

Defender Krishanee Tamou is the survivor from last year's side, which were relegated to division two, after losing their promotion-relegation game with Waikato.

Unavailability and retirements have weakened Southland stocks, with coach Reinga Te Huia naming an exciting, but inexperienced squad yesterday.

Southland's strength lies in the midcourt, where Southern Steel wing defence Hayley Saunders and former Central Pulse and Canterbury Tactix player Hayley Crofts will be expected to lead the way.

Rata's Kendall McMinn, who has previously been a training partner with the Steel, also returns after missing last season because of compartment syndrome in her calves.

Ex-High midcourter Suzanne Black, who was one of the most improved players in the Southland-wide league this season, has been rewarded with a place in the squad.

With talented shooters Ashleigh Smith, Morgan Hunter, Memory McLeod and Mishani Areaiiti all unavailable, Southland has been forced to search for a replacement, with Cantabrian Sarah Hayman answering an SOS.

Hayman is a promising player, who was a member of the New Zealand secondary schools' side last season, and in the accelerant squad for the Tactix earlier this year.

She can cover both goal shoot and goal attack and will partner Verdon College's Lucy Heenan or Knapdale-raised Emma Millard in the shooting circle.

"The shoots we've got are young, up-and-coming and willing," Te Huia said.

Positions look to be wide open in the defensive end with ex-High's Tamou probably favoured to take one of the spots. The other four defenders in the squad are Rata's Tegan Hunt and Rachael Fahy, Wakatipu High's Lucy Robins, and Sara Bartley - who was a standout in the Invercargill netball centre final for St Mary's A.

Southland open their division two campaign against Western in Hawera on Sunday, September 2, and Te Huia said her side were determined to force their way back into first division.

Southland squad: Shooters: Sarah Hayman, Lucy Heenan, Emma Millard Midcourters: Hayley Crofts, Hayley Saunders, Kendall McMinn, Suzanne Black Defenders: Sara Bartley, Krishanee Tamou, Tegan Hunt, Lucy Robins, Rachael Fahy DRAW: v Western September 2, Hawera v Tasman, September 9, Nelson v Counties, September 16, Gore v North, September 23, Gore v Eastern October 3, Tauranga Finals days October 3-5, Tauranga

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- The Southland Times

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