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Georgie Salter reckons not even a Zimmer frame will stop her coaching the game she loves – as long as she has a younger coach beside her.
Salter has been a fixture on the sidelines of netball courts around Oamaru and further afield in a coaching capacity for close to 40 years.
Her first coaching gig actually came 55 years ago when, at the age of 10, she coached a “little nippers” team at Wyndham Primary School.
She has coached North Otago, coached or helped coach virtually every netball club in Oamaru, been involved with Waitaki Girls’ High School teams for 38 years, and assisted St Kevin’s College teams.
Salter was recently part of the St Kevin’s Mercy Cup campaign, alongside Kate Mihaere, and will be co-coach of the North Otago under-17 team at the New Zealand age group championships in Rangiora next month, again with Mihaere.
However, she is best known for her stint as Otago coach between 1990 and 2003.
In 1998, she led the Otago Rebels to glory in the inaugural national netball league champs (the predecessor of the present transtasman league), with a 57-50 win over the Southern Sting, while Otago’s provincial side also won the national provincial championships.
She was a national selector for the 1987 world championships in Scotland, a tournament the Silver Ferns won to claim their third world title.
Five years later, she coached the New Zealand under-21 side to its first world title in Fiji.
Salter said, when she first became a coach, she found it helped develop not only her team’s game, but also her own.
“There was always young people getting to coach little ones. We even do that today. It’s really nice for the younger ones having older girls coaching them … they’re their mums on court, so to speak.”
During her time as a coach in North Otago, Salter felt it was important to be open to helping both secondary schools, despite their on-court competitiveness, to benefit the game in the North Otago region.
“I’ve always been involved because of the amount of experience I have. That experience should be shared and spread around. I’ve always been available to the clubs to help them too, and have given them all help.
“With Waitaki and St Kevin’s, we’ve always been competitive, but co-operatively competitive. We have to share knowledge for all North Otago athletes, which is a good thing.”
She said the North Otago competition had always been “intense” and played at a decent level.
“If it wasn’t good netball, the numbers playing wouldn’t be as good as they are. I think North Otago netball is thriving.”
However, she felt the one thing that tended to let teams down was fitness levels, which she believed were lower than in other areas, particularly the main centres.
North Otago was also unique in the fact that age group teams, at levels such as under-19 and under-21, often merged.
Salter believed that had its positive side, as it meant players could play for those teams longer and gain more experience.
She highlighted player-coach Petra Aspros, former Otago representative and Maheno coach Carmen Brenssell, and daughter Rihi Salter, who is coaching at Waitaki Girls’, for their contributions to North Otago netball.
Salter was also full of praise for former New Zealand under-21 representative Mel Lewis, and under-21 national development squad member Jennifer O’Connell, who recently helped Netball South claim the Beko title.
“We’re on the right track, because we can produce New Zealand under-21 players.”
Asked how much longer she planned to coach for, Salter – who competes in masters rowing – said as long as she had someone beside her, it would be many years.
“I will probably have my Zimmer frame. I’ll only coach if I have a coach with me … I’m not out of touch, but there are a few gaps in there. And, players do need that keen, young role model.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Georgie is a real livewire who has invested so much time working with emerging talent both on and off the netball court. She is an energetic coach, mum and grandmother who has inspired sportswomen across the country.” – Melanie Tavendale