Steel adds promising shooter to 2017 roster - September 2, 2016
At just 19-years-old Jennifer O’Connell has already ticked off a massive goal – earning selection in the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel team.
The talented shooter will represent the franchise in the 2017 ANZ Netball Elite League.
“I’m absolutely thrilled – I can’t wait. It’s definitely been a dream since I was a little girl,” she said.
“As a player I want to keep developing and just being in the Steel environment with quality team-mates and coaches will play a huge part in that.”
The 1.93m goal shoot was excited to link up with towering Jamaican international Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, who boasts an additional 5cm in height.
“I’m usually the tallest in the team so it will be a nice change not to be,” she quipped.
“I have so much that I want to learn from her and it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to tap into her experience.”
Raised on a farm at Kaiwera, near Gore, O’Connell was educated at Waitaki Girls’ High School and has represented the region in various age group and senior teams, including the South team which won the inaugural Beko National League title in June.
She is a member of the New Zealand U21 team and was included in the national Pathway to Podium initiative, a partnership between Sport New Zealand, High Performance Sport New Zealand, national sports organisations and regional bodies.
While O’Connell fielded interest from other franchises, the first-year student at Dunedin’s College of Education admits she didn’t want to venture far.
“I don’t really want to go away. I’m a bit of a home girl and love being on the farm – it’s my special place to be,” she said.
In fact, she is currently spending her varsity holidays helping with the lambing beat.
Along with Fowler-Reid, O’Connell will be joined in 2017 by captain Wendy Frew, Silver Ferns Shannon Francois, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Jane Watson, NZ A midcourter Gina Crampton and defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.
“They are all coming off such a fantastic season this year and will be wanting to build on that so it will be great to be part of the journey,” she said.
Steel chief executive Lana Winders said O’Connell’s inclusion was testament to the pathways available to local players.
“Jen performed incredibly well for our South Beko team and it’s exciting to see our own talent getting the platform to really shine on the national stage and also ensure the selectors take notice,” she said.
“Our local girls are being sought after by other franchises and it’s a reflection of the quality coaches we have in our Zone that players like Jen are in hot demand.”