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Dedication ... Netball coach Chris Karena has received a Netball Eastern Southland award for her services. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

With decades of netball coaching experience under her belt, Chris Karena has received a Netball Eastern Southland award for her services.

Karena was nominated at the organisation’s annual meeting in February, and received the award earlier this month.

She said she was “overwhelmed” when she found out.

“I had no idea that I’d ever be considered for anything like that, ever.”

The organisation held a special ceremony for her at the RSA, which was “awesome”.

Many of her friends, family and members of the netball community attended.

“It wasn’t a big crowd but people who had been inspirational to me throughout my netball career.

“It was nice.”

Two close friends – Kate Leebody, of Dunedin, and Mureen Turfrey, of Christchurch – travelled to be there.

“That was a huge surprise.”

Karena has been coaching netball for about 40 years, and has been involved in school, club and representative teams.

“It doesn’t seem like that but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

“I’ve enjoyed the journey.”

She used to play for East Gore in the premier grade “way back then” and was coached by Leebody.

She started coaching not long after and “just went from there”.

She enjoyed watching players improve and seeing school pupils, in particular, grow into young women and achieve great things.

It was rewarding to see them go on to higher honours, she said.

At present, she helps Colleen Bond coach Ex High teams, and has coached at St Peter’s College.

“Colleen’s been very inspirational to me as well.

“She was there right at the beginning when I was first starting out coaching.”

Netball Eastern Southland president Emma Hanley said Karena was a worthy recipient who had spent a number of years coaching in the region.

“She’s just done an amazing job as a volunteer.”