EVEN the most ambitious script writer may have wondered if last Saturday’s drama at ILT Stadium Southland could be regarded too far fetched.
Twenty years after the formation of the Southern Sting netball team, which went on to win seven national titles in a decade, many of the players from that champion era returned to the main court on Saturday.
The reunited Sting took on Netball South’s Beko League team, a team made up mainly of Southland and Otago’s more promising netballers.
Much like the old days, the Sting stirred up plenty of interest with almost 2400 fans turning up for the reunion game.
That in itself was special.
But just what unfolded on the court played out in true Southern Sting fashion where the legends of Southland sport found a way to win against the odds.
Down by eight heading into the final quarter, the Sting’s competitive edge surfaced as the netball veterans ended up winning by one goal, 51-50. Make no mistake, there were no favours handed out by the Netball South team.
There courtside barking instructions was coach Robyn Broughton, the successful coach who led the Sting to those seven titles from 1998 to 2007.
“It was like the good old days. The same spectators, the same people who enjoyed it then, and me saying to them, ‘do not throw the ball away, keep possession’. They did it in the end and we got there,” Broughton said.
“The Beko team was lovely to play against, and it will be good for them, too. To see what these girls can do.”
Sting shooter Donna Wilkins was the key figure behind putting together the reunion weekend, which also included a dinner at the Ascot Park Hotel last Friday night.
The thought of a reunion had been bubbling away for some time. However, the shock death of popular Sting player Tania Dalton last year spurred Wilkins into making sure it happened.
The weekend also doubled as a fundraiser for the Tania Dalton Foundation.
“We feel like Tarns is with us. [The spectators] came to watch us, but they also came to support Tarns, and that is pretty huge.
“I just can’t wait to work out how much we raised, but I’m picking it will be over $30K. I’m absolutely stoked.”
Former Australian international Natalie Avellino was signed by the Sting in 2004 and has remained in Southland after her netball playing days.
She was excited to return to the ILT Stadium Southland court on Saturday with her former Sting team-mates.
“How the hell did we win that, I have no idea,” Avellino said.
“It is just the good old Sting, never give up. Robyn was getting growly and it worked, obviously.”
The Sting was disbanded in 2008 when Southland and Otago combined to form the Southern Steel to play in a new trans-Tasman netball league.
After winning last year’s national title, the Steel is searching for back-to-back titles.
The Steel have one more round-robin game to play against the Northern Stars on Sunday before the play-offs.