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Having her full squad together for the first time has new Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel co-coach Natalie Avellino excited ahead of the ANZ Championship pre-season tournament in Tauranga this weekend.
The former Australian international, who made Invercargill her home nearly 10 years ago, joins Janine Southby as co-coaches of the Steel and the duo get a taste of what lies ahead with the championship’s pre-season tournament at the TECT Arena, starting on Friday.
“It’s exciting and we’re looking forward to getting the whole team together for the first time and getting under way,” Avellino said.
It has been a disrupted build-up for the Steel with stalwart Wendy Frew withdrawing from the side after announcing her pregnancy and the late arrival of Donna Wilkins, who is returning to the Steel after giving birth to her third child just last month.
Avellino said it would be good to have all 12 players together for the first time at the pre-season tournament in Tauranga with former Canterbury Tactix mid-courter Phillipa Finch drafted into the side last week as a replacement for Frew.
It is a vastly different looking squad to last year’s unit with nine changes as well as new coaches and new captain in former Silver Fern Jodi Brown who is playing for the Steel for the first time.
“It might be a big change for the people from the outside but there are a lot of girls with really strong connections to this region and it is an exciting direction for us,” Avellino said.
The former attacking player has plenty of experience coaching in the deep south having taken the Southland side to a national provincial title but admits to a mixture of excitement and nerves ahead of the pre-season tournament in Tauranga and the 2012 ANZ Championship.
“As a player I think you feel a bit more in control of things especially when you’re out on court but as a coach it’s about preparing the players as much as you can and then hopefully they put it all out on court,” she said with a laugh.
She was pleased to get the chance to see all 10 teams in action over three days of competition in Tauranga.
“It’s a fantastic idea and that every team gets the opportunity to play against other teams at the same level,” Avellino said. “It’s going to be a huge advantage to see all those teams from the championships.”
The competition will be played across four sessions from Friday 2 to Sunday 4 March:
Session 1 Friday 2 March 4pm-10pm
Session 2 Saturday 3 March 9am-5pm
Session 3 Saturday 3 March 7pm-10pm
Session 4 Sunday 4 March (FINALS) 9am-1pm
The teams have been divided into two pools, with teams within each pool playing each other once over Sessions 1 to 3. In the final session, teams from opposing pools will play-off to determine the pre-season champion.