Just two words will provide all the inspiration the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel need against the Mystics on Sunday – Georgie Salter.
The legendary southern coach will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds as the two teams contest the annual Georgie Salter Memorial at ILT Stadium Southland. To keep their ANZ Premiership finals quest alive, the round 12 clash doubles as a must-win for Steel against the table-topping Aucklanders.
Salter’s niece and Steel head coach Reinga Bloxham reckons she would have dished out some robust advice.
“Georgie would just approach this game like having absolutely nothing to lose. She would be tactically thinking about how you could mess with them and throw something a little bit different at them. She would be focused on the need to absolutely take them out and be better than them,” she said.
An astute reader of the game, tactics were undoubtedly a hallmark of the former Silver Fern’s coaching prowess during an illustrious career which earned not only national titles but an unwavering respect from the netball fraternity.
“Everyone has a Georgie Salter story and pretty much every one of them has a theme of ‘she made me do something I didn’t want to, but I did it anyway because I didn’t want to say no to her’,” Bloxham said.
“I talked at the end of training about the uniqueness of this game and what an amazing person Georgie was. It’s a very special game and in the last couple of years we’ve worked really hard to approach this memorial with passion and heart. Normally when you go into games you don’t want too much emotion but I think in the past it’s really driven us and helped get us across the line.
“It’s about educating those new players about who Georgie was and what she brought to the province, to her family, to netball – to everything she did. It’s about sharing those funny little stories about her so they get a sense of who she was.”
Salter, who passed away in 2018 aged 67, would be proud of the Steel’s progress this season, particularly the endeavours of defender Taneisha Fifita who she mentored through the ranks.
“The way that Taneisha’s playing this year, Georgie is smiling down from wherever she is. She will be so stoked with the way she’s been playing,” Bloxham said.
“She’s had a hand in influencing Taneisha, Shannon, Kate and Te Huinga. Those players that have had experience with her know exactly how she always thought outside the box.”
And there’s no denying genetics when it comes to her own coaching traits.
“I quite often get told by her daughters that sometimes I have this look or I say things that might be a little bit like her. When things get a little bit dodgy or rough or you might need a stern word, often they say ‘that’s something Georgie would say’. She definitely had a firm side and could express herself quite well so I may have inherited that from her.”
While Steel has toppled the Mystics already during this campaign, five wins on the trot is testament the visitors have form on their side.
“The Mystics are playing some really quality netball at the moment. They are confident in what they’re doing and really controlled with the ball,” Bloxham said.
“We’ll approach it like we approached it last time. If we can try and disrupt and disconnect their attacking line up early on, that will give us confidence going forward.
“We’ve definitely had a good look at them and what’s working for them. We can take what we did last time and tweak it to make sure that we really stop the flow of ball going into that circle.”
A fanatical crowd packed into the Steel fortress would provide a significant edge.
“We need the entire Steel army behind us. These next three games need to be approached like they are our final because if we want to make it any further, we have to take the win in every one of them. We will be approaching it with the mindset of ‘we’ve got nothing to lose and this is the be all and end all’,” Bloxham said.
“We do not want to have to wait to find out our fate and where we sit on the points ladder by relying on other results. We need to try and control that ourselves.”
The Steel will host the Mystics at 6pm on Sunday. Tickets are available from ILT Stadium Southland or online at www.ticketek.co.nz.