Pas­sion, en­thu­si­asm drives Ladies team

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - LAWRENCE GULLERY

The Chal­lenge Mata­mata Swifts Ladies foot­ball team is on the cusp on achiev­ing some­thing coach Nigel Leaver thought would be out of its reach.

The team will play in the Waikato Women’s Knock-out Cup semi-fi­nal against Melville United de­vel­op­ment team at the Mata­mata Do­main this Sun­day.

Book­ing a place in the fi­nal would cap off an al­ready re­mark­able sea­son for the team which was ini­tially ear­marked for the Waikato Womens B league.

‘‘I was orig­i­nally asked by my daugh­ter to get in­volved with the team last year. She was play­ing for Mata­mata Col­lege but wanted to step up to play for the Swifts.

‘‘So last year I went along to watch the team play at the end of their sea­son and just thought, yep, ok, we’ll be a team that plays on a Sun­day, in the B league.’’

But things changed when the team was un­ex­pect­edly moved up into the Waikato Women’s A league for this sea­son.

Leaver knew the other clubs in the com­pe­ti­tion would have larger play­ing ros­ters, more ex­pe­ri­ence, but he didn’t back away from the chal­lenge.

‘‘In fact when we started train­ing I quickly recog­nised we had some qual­ity play­ers, with good skills and pace. I’ve just been able to tune into that, pull in some help from our man­ager Rob Cox for some tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and help from our man­ager, Denise [Adam­son].

‘‘I think over­all we have per­formed tremen­dously. I thought we would have some heavy de­feats but that hasn’t hap­pened. I would say the pin­na­cle so far was beat­ing [top of the ta­ble] Cam­bridge.

‘‘We’ve had our chal­lenges. We’ve lost a few play­ers along the way and some­times we’ve had to play with just the 11, no subs. So fit­ness has been a big fo­cus for us, to make sure we can get through that 90 min­utes.’’

Deal­ing with a loss can be dif­fi­cult but Leaver’s style is to fo­cus on ‘‘the per­for­mance’’ and put what hap­pened into per­spec­tive to re­build for the next game.

He’s def­i­nitely es­tab­lished a rap­port with his team al­though he’s the first to ad­mit his coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in womens foot­ball was limited.

‘‘Most of my coach­ing ex­peri- ence has been driven by the sport my chil­dren have played. I coached a bit over­seas, a lo­cal vil­lage foot­ball team, and youth soccer for my daugh­ter Mag­gie, and coached a bit of rugby as well.

‘‘But most of what I’ve done is based on en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion.’’

Leaver said he would like to re­turn to coach the Swifts Ladies team next sea­son.

‘‘But we need a big­ger play­ing squad. We have a good re­la­tion­ship with the [Mata­mata] col­lege with some good play­ers com­ing through there. We’re hop­ing to see more from the col­lege come through, it’s a huge op­por­tu­nity for more women to play foot­ball in the Waikato.’’

Swifts had last week­end off as their op­po­nents de­faulted.

Swifts’ An­ne­mieke Ver­straten com­petes with Cam­bridge’s Abby Cook dur­ing a June 25 match. Swifts play in the Waikato Women’s Knock­out Cup semi-fi­nal on Au­gust 13.

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