Southern Steel to keep working on combinations at Otaki pre-season netball tournament - March 7, 2017
by SCOTT DONALDSON
The Southern Steel will continue to try out different combinations at their final pre-season netball tournament in Otaki starting on Friday.
All six ANZ Premiership netball teams will be involved in the event running from Friday to Sunday, with Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham keen to keep testing out combinations, rather than settling on a starting lineup so close to the start of the season.
The 2017 ANZ Championship minor premiers have had a varied build up to their season.
They were forced to field an inexperienced squad for two tough early pre-season matches in early February against the Noeline Taurua coached Sunshine Coast Lightning, without Silver Fern players Jane Watson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Shannon Francois and Gina Crampton.
In recent weeks they have also recorded comfortable victories against the Mainland Tactix and the Netball South development team, but the Otaki tournament represents their final chance to iron out the creases before their regular season campaign begins on March 26.
The Steel will face the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, Central Pulse and Northern Mystics on three consecutive days, which will provide a litmus test heading into the inaugural domestic netball competition.
"It is a good chance for everyone to see how other teams are tracking, but for us we are going to be focusing on combinations that we can put out on court," Bloxham said.
"It is our last official match play, as such, so we are coming up against the other ANZ sides, which you can sort of gauge where you might be tracking."
According to Bloxham, results are largely irrelevant during the pre-season.
"Obviously we are going to set our own targets and goals that we want to work on and again not focus on the outcome and winning," she said.
"It is pre-season and nobody wins the Premiership in the pre-season, so I am thinking everyone will be doing the same sort of thing and making sure they have got the combinations out on court that they want to see during the season."
While the Southern Steel have a relatively similar squad to the 2016 season, they will be trying to give their entire squad the opportunity for game time in Otaki.
Although Steel squad members like U21 players Jennifer O'Connell and Jamie Hume, along with defender Abby Erwood are still eligible to play for the South team in the Beko League, they could be called upon to step up at any minute to take the court for the southerners.
"We are just making sure we are getting what we need out of that tournament, which is a whole lot of game time and combinations, so I will look to play everyone again and that will be our focus," Bloxham said.
The new-look national domestic league will be launched on Thursday, with the Steel joined by the Magic, Pulse, Mystics, Tactix and the new-Auckland based Northern Stars in a three-day tournament at Nga Purapura in Otaki.
At a glance
Southern Steel's pre-season netball tournament fixtures
When: Friday, Steel v Magic, 4:00pm;
Saturday, Steel v Pulse,12:00pm;
Sunday, Steel v Mystics,10:00am.