Soccer: Ferns' keeper shares Games joy with coach

By Shane Hurndell

Hawke's Bay's Olympic Games-bound Football Ferns goalkeeper Rebecca Rolls was quick to praise one of the province's stalwarts, Terry O'Neill, for the part he played in her career.

"Terry was always very professional. He had a very good work ethic and a good knack when it came to coaching women. Terry always took time out to deal with the requirements of us keepers," Rolls said as she recalled her days with Napier City Rovers while preparing for the Ferns departure to Europe on Sunday.

O'Neill, who has been involved with coaching soccer for 46 years and was Hawke's Bay's Volunteer Coach of the Year award winner in 2006, remembers Rolls well from her days with Rovers in the early 1990s.

"Rebecca had all the necessary ingredients to reach the top. She was strong and athletic. Rebecca was always prepared to listen and take advice.

"She had a good attitude and respect for everyone involved in the sport and most importantly, Rebecca was prepared to put in the hard work behind the scenes."

Rolls, 36, recalled the rivalries her former Rovers teams had.

"It was always between us, Taradale and Havelock North when it came to title honours. From what I hear it's still the same now."

A product of Reignier, Tamatea Intermediate and Taradale High schools, Rolls, was "really stoked" when named as the No2 keeper in the Football Ferns to fellow Auckland-based player Jenny Bindon.

"Naturally I want to do the best I can. If I'm doing really well it will put pressure on Jenny to play well and the whole team will benefit," Rolls explained.

Before taking on hosts Great Britain in their first match at the Games in Cardiff, two days before the Games opening ceremony, the Football Ferns will play in a Switzerland-hosted tournament.

"We play Canada and Colombia who are also playing at the Games but not Brazil as they in our pool at the Games. We'll be spying on them and no doubt they will be on us," Rolls said.

The 12 teams at the Games have been split into three pools. The top two teams from each of the pools plus the next best two qualifiers will play in the quarter-finals.

"We'll be targeting Cameroon because they are the lowest ranked of our opponents but they are still very good. We've got the ability and want to qualify off our own performances ... we don't want to rely on other results to get through," Rolls, the second oldest player in the team, said.

A former New Zealand cricket representative who played 107 matches for the White Ferns including 104 one-day internationals during a 10-year career which ended in 2008, Rolls, described the two national teams as "quite different."

"In cricket there were only four top teams ... India, England, Australia and us. We played the other three year in year out but in soccer we can play any one of the top 30 teams and have an amazing game ... it's wide open."

A Serious Fraud Office worker in Auckland, Rolls still does one-on-one coaching with wicketkeepers in Auckland.

She is thrilled with the support she receives from family members in Hawke's Bay including sister Jess McIvor, a Hawke's Bay United soccer team physiotherapist, brother-in-law Chris McIvor who is a long-time Rovers and United player and grandfather Bob Rolls.

"My grandfather gives me plenty of s ... when I let any goals in."

O'Neill will be surprised if Rolls lets many in at the Olympics.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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