The concept of everyone in New Zealand being linked by “two degrees of separation” or less has helped to attract New Zealand Black Sticks women’s hockey star Anita McLaren to Southland for some coaching clinics.

Hockey Southland board member and Collegiate Club president Tony Mennell got in touch with McLaren (nee Punt) through a mutual friend who lives near the experienced international player in Auckland.

“So I approached her asking her if she wanted to come down and do some development down here and try and create a bit of hype and atmosphere about playing hockey down here in Southland,” Mennell said.

The double Commonwealth Games medallist and leading New Zealand goal scorer of all time will be running one-hour school holiday sessions on July 19 in Gore and July 20 in Invercargill for under-13 Collier and Hatch players, along with under-15, under-18 and under-23 age-groups.

As at May 22, the 29-year-old had scored 96 international goals for New Zealand from 247 games after she made her debut in 2009.

The coaching clinics will be part of a busy month for the sport in July, with various programmes and fixtures.

Sixty-one junior hockey teams from Year 1 to 6 play matches from 4pm on Wednesday afternoons, while the Year 1 and 2 students also get coaching before their fixtures at the ILT Hockey Turf in Invercargill as part of the Small Sticks programme.

The games run until 7pm, with teams from throughout the province involved.
There are also Southland under-18 players representing Southern at the New Zealand Hockey Championships in Whangarei on July 9 til 16.

Meanwhile, Eastern United continue their march towards the Southland men’s division one title played on Friday nights.

They lead the four team competition with eight wins, one draw and two losses from their 11-games, to sit comfortably clear of Collegiate and Phoenix.

Eastern also sit at the top-of-the-table in the six team men’s division two competition this season played on Sundays.

Eastern Green, Eastern Grey and Collegiate 2 are battling it out for the top spot with seven wins each, in a tight competition.

Mataura Gold and Riversdale Black are the teams to beat in the women’s division one competition.