Southern Steel look formidable in preseason hitout before ANZ Premiership - March 12, 2017
by LOGAN SAVORY
The Southern Steel have tightened their grip on the favorites tag heading into the 2017 ANZ Premiership competition with an impressive showing in Otaki during the weekend.
The six teams converged on Otaki for a preseason hit out with the Steel finishing with three wins from their three outings.
They beat the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic 74-64 in their first game on Friday night, backed it up with a 53-48 win over the Central Pulse on Saturday, and finished with a 70-49 win over the Northern Mystics on Sunday.
The Steel already had a target on their back head into this year's New Zealand domestic competition given what they did last year in the New Zealand conference of the combined New Zealand-Australia competition.
While there have been many personal changes throughout other teams the Steel were also able to retain the bulk of their team, including star shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
Coach Reinga Bloxham was aware the Steel's chances were being talked up but stressed it wouldn't lead to any sort of complacency.
"I don't feel all that comfortable about [being regarded favorites], but I do know a lot of people are saying it," she said.
"The one thing I have noticed with these girls is there is a strong work ethic and always a drive to get better. I wouldn't say we are favorites though."
Strength and conditioning coach Mike Jacobs has been one of the biggest factors in the preseason to date.
The Steel players have been worked extremely hard to ensure they are in the best possible physical shape heading into the season.
Bloxham said the players have responded well to the heavy workload.
In what will be music to the player's ears that tough workload is set to ease somewhat in the remaining couple of weeks of preseason before the opening game against the Northern Stars in Hamilton on March 26.
Bloxham said the plan was to freshen them up and switch the main focus to their systems on the court.
The Steel's remaining preseason hit outs will be against Netball South's Beko League team.
Apart from a minor ankle injury to Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, the Steel got through the Otaki trip injury free.