After an unbeaten run through the competition, the Southland men’s gold netball team was victorious when it won the B grade section at the New Zealand men’s national tournament in Wellington last week.
In a game that went right down to the wire, Southland beat Nelson 37-36 in the final.
Captain Logan Simpson was rapt with the outcome, considering his side had been down by five goals at one point.
“It was just a big team effort. We were down for parts of that game and we kept chugging along to get the win,” he said.
“That last quarter especially, we were able to grab the lead and held up the pressure on them.”
Southland beat Nelson in its round-robin match earlier in the week and knew it would be a tough final.
“We knew they would be a tough team to play against in the final,” Simpson said.
“Finals netball is another step up from regular play and I think we did that well.”
Southland came second at the nationals last year and Simpson said there was one main reason for its vast improvement – its coach, former Silver Fern Donna Wilkins.
“Donna has made a huge difference. Her coaching ability and knowledge of the game is great – we’ve just improved in leaps and bounds since she’s been with us.
“Without Donna and our manager, Sarah Hamilton, keeping us in line, we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
Wilkins was stoked to be on board with the team and help it grab the trophy.
“I’m just so happy for the boys, not only for the win but to actually go through unbeaten the whole tournament is really impressive.”
Simpson, who played wing defence, was named most valuable player in the final and Wilkins praised her captain for his performance.
“He worked really hard for us. In those last three minutes, he gained some really critical ball.”
Wilkins, who co-coaches the Beko South female team, said there was a significant difference between the way men and women played the game.
“There is a difference. The men’s game, they’re very aerial and have long big passes.”
Wilkins had provided structure for Southland throughout the court.
“I think I’ve just brought in some structure which wasn’t there before. Nelson was one of the only other teams that had very set structures, so we knew in the final we were coming up against that.
“It’s just tidying up around the ball, the basics, and the discipline also has been good.”
The Southland men’s maroon team received the fair play award in the B grade.
“That was great for those boys. We’ve grown a lot having two teams from Southland; the environment between the two teams is really, really good,” Simpson said.
Southland gold would now be eligible to play in A grade at the nationals next year.