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Netball talent boxes on in quest of sevens glory

Last updated 05:00 11/01/2014

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Hayley Crofts made her name as a talented young netballer, she has developed a passion for boxing and today she will take on yet another major sporting challenge.

The former Southern Sting, Central Pulse and Canterbury Tactix netballer will line up for the Southland women's sevens rugby team today in the first ever stint at the national tournament in Rotorua.

Crofts has learning the sevens rugby ropes since August and is now eager to put that into practise on the national stage.

"I'm really excited, but I'm nervous as well, it's all new. But it's definitely exciting, it's a new challenge."

It was that fresh challenge that initially prompted her to have a crack at sevens rugby and she has enjoyed the transition.

"I've gone from the round ball to oval ball and it hasn't been too bad really. The physicality side of things is a bit different, just like tackling," she said.

"Speed and footwork is probably the same but I've had to learn a lot of new rules. They've done a good job down south promoting it and getting people involved. We've been going since before August, I think, which is good because there's a lot of new ones come in. We didn't know anything so they had to go right back to the basics for us."

The 25-year-old has also grabbed a couple of pointers from her rugby-playing partner John Hardie, who is preparing with the Highlanders for the Super Rugby season.

"Well, he wasn't actually all that keen about it at the start," Crofts said.

"But he's got over it now and he's given me a few tips about what I should be doing."

Southland women's coach Andrew Rowland gave the converted sevens player a glowing pass mark and thinks she is a player who can have a real impact in the shortened format.

"She's the model trainer, we've really seen that come through. You can tell she's played sport at a high level just with her attitude, she's very professional," he said.

"She'll pick up the actual specifics of the game very, very quickly. It might be a steep learning curve for her this time around."

Crofts will be one of many sporting converts in Rotorua this weekend and it seems the carrot, which is that sevens is now an Olympic sport, has helped prompt that sport-swapping.

"I think it's probably drawn a lot of people to it, you know that whole Olympic dream," Crofts said.

"Who wouldn't want to have a crack at it? If you got the chance to go to the Olympics, it's a pretty big thing."

Crofts and the rest of the young and inexperienced Southland team haven't been offered any favours, drawing powerhouses Auckland first up today.

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"We've got a pretty young team and it's all for experience for us I think."

Southland has been dealt a blow with one of their promising young players, Grace Earland, out after breaking her leg in a warmup match against Otago on Sunday.

- The Southland Times

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