Sting players to gather for reunion game
A legendary sporting era will be celebrated next month when members of the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Sting unite.
The 20-year reunion, organised by former shooting maestro Donna Wilkins, will be the first time the players and management have gathered since the franchise’s inception in 1998 and will include a private dinner at the Ascot Park Hotel and a public netball game.
The Sting was heralded as one of New Zealand’s most successful sports teams after winning seven national titles and contesting every grand final during its 10-year dominance of the domestic netball scene from 1998 to 2007 – a feat unrivalled.
“How many teams do that in any sporting code – it was a pretty phenomenal decade of netball,” Wilkins said.
“We celebrated every year as the titles came but we never stopped and reflected on the whole achievement.
“And it wasn’t just about the sport. It was the community and the way everyone just embraced the team and became part of it all.”
Just 42 players ever represented the Sting with a large contingent expected to gather in Invercargill on July 20 and 21 for the reunion. Among the 27 players already confirmed are former internationals Bernice Mene, Lesley Rumball, Adine Wilson, Belinda Colling, Anna Galvan and Natalie Avellino.
Former players now representing the Steel - Wendy Frew, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Reinga Bloxham – will also attend before travelling to Auckland for round 12 of the ANZ Premiership.
“People are actually making an effort to come which is really special and there’s a great mix of players from across the 1998 to 2007 teams. It’s a pretty unique group of individuals which were involved with the Sting era,” Wilkins said.
“Rob (Coach Robyn Broughton) and I have talked about a reunion for a long time to the point we even made a list of names. But I guess when we lost Tarns (team-mate Tania Dalton) it was a reality check to get on with it.”
Dalton, who tragically passed away after suffering a ruptured internal carotid artery aneurysm in March last year, would be fondly remembered.
Wilkins said entry for the public keen to attend the Sting game on Saturday, July 21 at ILT Stadium Southland would be in the form of a donation at the door to the Tania Dalton Foundation.
“When Tarn came down to play for Sting, she really made Invercargill her home. She loved Southland and the people here so I hope the community come out in force to support this,” she said.
“It’s a way for us to honour Tarn and make her part of this reunion while also raising money for her Foundation and achieve her vision and passion for helping our emerging sportspeople realise their full potential regardless of any hardships they face.
“We also want to raise awareness locally for the Foundation so young people from Southland know they can apply for scholarships for whatever sport they play.”
In an event supported by the Invercargill Licensing Trust and ILT Foundation, the Sting players will face off against the Netball South team which competes in the Beko Netball League and is co-coached by Wilkins.
Broughton would be sideline in her iconic coaching role.
“Our bodies are all a bit older now so physio Neil Familton will have his work cut out for him like never before,” Wilkins quipped.