Experienced campaigner Georgie Salter will lead Netball South’s quest to defend its Beko Netball League title in 2017.

Salter, of Oamaru, was today named as head coach of the team to contest the national competition from March to June.

Family proved the catalyst to entice her out of retirement at the elite level. Salter’s niece Reinga Bloxham is head coach of the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel which has a close connection to the Beko team.

“It’s definitely a whanau thing that I’m doing and it’s a way to support her by helping the talent coming through from our region. That was the impetus to say yes.

“I’m probably going to be doing netball until my zimmer frame is rattling along the side of the court,” she quipped.

She wasn’t fazed by the team’s champions tag.

“People say there’s always more pressure defending the title but I actually see it as a bonus. Everyone knows we’ve won it and I think that’s worth 10 points. It means the opposition are going to prepare very strongly because they already know we’re good and that’s even greater motivation for us to make sure we’re ready right from the first game,” Salter said.

A Netball New Zealand initiative launched earlier this year, the Beko League provided a vital pathway for emerging talent to experience a high performance environment.

Salter believed it had also played an important role in uniting the southern zone.

“Having a North Otago person coaching players from throughout Otago and Southland makes that connection really strong and the more we can do that, the better. We need to work together in all ways, not just the players and coaches, but umpires, administrators and our wider netball community,” Salter said.

With an emphasis on pre-season conditioning, the initial 16-strong Beko squad was already putting in the hard slog ahead of the final trial in February and Salter was impressed with the talent.

“We’ve got the best our region can offer and they worked their little hearts out at the first trial,” she said.

“I want to capture that aspiration that they’ve all got and help them represent our region proudly.”

Salter started her own representative career in Eastern Southland and progressed to the Silver Fern ranks in 1974-75. Her coaching prowess saw the Otago Rebels win the inaugural Coca-Cola Cup in 1998 followed closely by Otago’s first NPC title win in 66 years. Together with a vast array of provincial appointments, Salter also coached the New Zealand U21 team and completed a stint as technical advisor to the Cook Islands.

Netball South chief executive Lana Winders said Salter’s extensive knowledge would be an asset to both the team and wider organisation.

“If anyone can take the South team to back-to-back national titles, it’s Georgie. We’re really honoured to have someone of her calibre pick up this vital head coach role,” she said.

Four apprentice coaches would also be selected to be mentored by Salter during the campaign.

“The beauty of having someone like Georgie is that it creates an amazing opportunity to tap into her expertise and that’s going to be an incredible experience for four of our emerging coaches.”

Salter applauded the initiative and was eager to work with those selected.

“We’re trendsetters – the south has always been the group to lead the way and we’re doing it again,” she said.