TAKE a moment and absorb this.
In the space of six months, the Southland cricket team, the Southland Sharks and the Southern Steel have all won respected national sports titles.
It’s extraordinary – and that’s not me beating it up for the sake of this column.
At a time when regions with populations in the
millions scratch their heads and ponder what is wrong with their various sporting teams, Southland is preparing for a street parade to honour a golden period of Southland sport.
But it is not just the fact three proud sporting teams have etched their names on national trophies which makes this so remarkable.
It is the way they have gone about it, which is why our sporting heroes and administrators deserve every bit of the accolades they are getting at the moment.
In March, the Southland Cricket Association sent a team to Auckland to challenge holders Counties Manukau for the Hawke Cup – New Zealand’s symbol of supremacy for district association cricket.
Southland had not won the cup in 26 years and headed to Auckland without arguably its two best players – Jacob Duffy and Harsh Visavidaya.
The odds were stacked against the battlers from the south, but they hit the jackpot.
Southland’s Hawke Cup drought ended with a commanding 10-wicket victory.
Then it was the Southland Sharks men’s basketball team’s turn.
They, too, were provided challenges, only to brush them to one side to secure the National Basketball League title.
Taking on defending champions the Wellington Saints in Wellington provided a difficult task in itself.
Add to that the fact that the Sharks’ plans were thrown into chaos when their most important attacking threat, Jarrad Weeks, picked up a hamstring injury and ended up playing little part in the finals.
The Sharks still found a way to win.
Like a well-oiled conveyer belt, Southland’s sporting success continued to flow.
Seven days after the Sharks’ victory in Wellington, the Southern Steel were crowned ANZ Premiership netball champions in Palmerston North after a dramatic 54-53 victory over the Central Pulse.
The Steel’s triumph was also delivered against the odds.
In the off-season the Steel lost two of its best players over recent seasons, Jhaniele Fowler and Jane Watson.
Jamaican defender Malysha Kelly was brought in to bolster the Steel squad but a knee injury in training ruled her out of the season before it had even began.
As a result, pundits predicted Steel to finish last. Hindsight shows they were well off the mark.
The Steel progressed to the final and then delivered one of New Zealand sport’s greatest comebacks.
The Wendy Frew-led team had to score the last seven goals in the final to win by one to claim the 2018 ANZ Premiership title.
Southlanders have every reason to be proud at the moment.