There’s much more than just ANZ Premiership competition points up for grabs when the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel take on the Northern Mystics at ILT Stadium Southland on Sunday.
In honour of a legendary coach, the teams will contest the inaugural Georgie Salter Memorial Trophy. Salter passed away in November last year after a brave battle with cancer.
The tribute is an apt one given Salter’s prowess as a coach not only extended to those in the deep South, but also a stint with the Auckland Diamonds in the National Bank Cup from 2001-2002.
“It’s fitting because it’s her team the Steel, which was formed after a merge with her beloved Rebels, and her time in Auckland was a really special part of her life too,” daughter Rihi Salter, of Oamaru, said.
“It’s a beautiful way to remember her. We as a whanau are always going to remember her obviously but it’s nice for her wider netball whanau to have this as well. But, at the same time, she wouldn’t want all the fuss.”
Salter’s niece and Steel coach Reinga Bloxham was eagerly anticipating the game.
“I feel like it’s an awesome way to celebrate the competitiveness, the passion, the love of the game that Georgie had for netball, her players and all the people she has been involved with in the netball world. To have the 2 franchises that she coached in battling it out on the court is a great way to honour and remember the input she had to netball in our franchises,” she said.
I think Georgie would love the fact that we are playing for this trophy and that it will be an annual game.”
Salter had always enjoyed the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy rugby games played between the Highlanders and the Blues.
“I think its special they have the same thing going on in their respective codes – they were great mates and had similar paths in sport but also had their lives cut tragically short,” Rihi said.
Mystics coach Helene Wilson said her team included three players who had worked closely with Salter at various stages in their netball career.
“While a stanchly proud southerner, Georgie was one of those true gems of netball whose passion for the game itself meant she was willing to share her knowledge far and wide to see the sport evolve. As a team, the Mystics are honoured to contest this trophy in her memory,” she said.
Silver Fern number 58, Salter was highly regarded as an astute reader of the game and a gifted attacker. Her uninhibited style provided natural flair and creativity – assets she passed onto the next generation of players and coaches lucky enough to receive her tutelage.
“Georgie influenced me as a person and as a coach. She has always been someone I have admired and aspired to be like within our whanau and the netball world,” Bloxham said.
“The quality I valued most was her ability to stay true to herself and do things her way. She wasn’t afraid to call it as she saw it and would always offer the best advice whether we won or lost. She was creative and innovative in her approach to coaching and not afraid to change things up. She would always debrief with me and offer little snippets of advice of what we could add to our game or do better. I always knew I had her support and her honest opinion.”
The Steel franchise hosts all six ANZ Premiership teams for the Super Sunday event. The Magic and the Pulse kick off proceedings at 2pm, followed by the Steel and Mystics at 4pm and the Tactix taking on the Stars at 6pm.
“There are people in every single franchise who are connected to Georgie in some way so it’s fantastic they are all there,” Rihi said.
A large contingent of Salter’s family, including husband David, three daughters and her grandchildren, will attend the game. The Waitaki Girls’ High School kapa haka group will perform and also stage a guard of honour for the two teams.
Given Salter’s Otago connections, the Steel franchise has arranged bus transport from Dunedin to Invercargill and return for fans keen to be courtside. Bus tickets are $25 and available online from ticketrocket.co.nz.
Super Sunday on home turf was “awesome” but presented its own set of challenges.
“It is also a very tough time for us as we really have to focus on us and what we need to do to get through this week with three games in six days. It’s a big task to get through and perform consistently for all three games. We have 11 players to call on having brought in Georgia Heffernan to the team,” Bloxham said.
“We’re glad to be home with our fans supporting us. It will definitely help us lift and give it our all. We have the best fans in the country who will enjoy being able to watch all six teams at our awesome stadium. We’re going to need all of our supporters to bring the noise to help keep our energy high and fizzing to get us through these tough games.”