Pre-season tour deemed a success - February 12, 2017
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel might not have notched up a win over the highly-rated Sunshine Coast Lightning, but coach Reinga Bloxham has hailed the pre-season trip across the ditch a success.
The Lightning, which kicks off its 2017 Suncorp Super Netball season on Saturday (February 18), posted two solid wins over the southerners – 75-49 on Friday night and 56-44 this afternoon.
“We improved dramatically and I’m really proud of what they did out on court today. We won the third quarter and drew the second half and that’s no mean feat against a team the calibre of the Lightning,” Bloxham said.
Lightning’s international stars include Silver Fern legend Laura Langman, Australian Diamonds shooters Caitlin Bassett and Stephanie Wood, South African defender Karla Mostert and England’s Geva Mentor.
“They’ve got a lot of firepower and they will be exciting to watch this season,” Bloxham said.
“Our players like Wendy, Te Huinga and Jhaniele really enjoyed matching up against them. They need that speed and intensity - absolutely thrive on it - and it was great to watch the individual battles going on.”
While the Steel were without Silver Ferns Shannon Francois, Gina Crampton, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Jane Watson, Bloxham said the week would prove beneficial to the team’s ANZ Premiership campaign.
It was a valuable opportunity for training partner Ngawai Eyles and Netball South development squad members Sophie Erwood, Aliyah Dunn and Dani Gray to step into the elite ranks of the Steel’s high performance environment.
“This trip was never about results for us, it was about development. Sixty percent of our team were Beko league players and this was a great opportunity for them,” Bloxham said.
“For the Steel, it means if we have any injuries we now have a bunch of players we can call on who can transition easily into the team and that’s really important going forward into this new competition.”
The Steel’s opening ANZ Premiership game is against the Northern Stars in Hamilton on March 26 – the first of three Super Sunday events featuring all six teams competing at the same venue. While its first home game is against the Magic at ILT Stadium on April 10, the Steel will host a Super Sunday on April 30 and play a total of five games in Invercargill and two in Dunedin.
Memberships for the 2017 season are now on sale from ILT Stadium Southland, the Edgar Centre or online at www.ticketdirect.co.nz.