Home is where the heart is for Watson - July 4, 2017
The call of home has finally proved too hard to resist for Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel defender Jane Watson.
After a sublime campaign with the Steel which earned her ANZ Premiership Player of the Year honours, Watson will bid farewell to the franchise to bolster the defensive ranks of the Silvermoon Tactix in 2018.
“To be honest, I am really sad about it. However, this is bigger than netball – it’s the right decision for me personally,” she said.
“It was an incredibly tough decision because I’ve just loved every minute down here. I’m going to miss Steel and I’m especially going to miss the girls. It will be hard playing against them next year.”
Watson has morphed into one of New Zealand’s fiercest defenders during her three years with the southern franchise, reflected in her elevation into the Silver Ferns.
While she undoubtedly thrived in the Steel environment, earning national selection was an unexpected bonus for Watson.
“It was never on my mind. I just knew in myself that I needed something different than what I was getting in Christchurch at the time because I wasn’t enjoying my netball. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to come down south and rekindle my passion for the game. I’ve just loved it down here,” she said.
Watson paid tribute to the trio of coaches who have influenced her playing prowess during her time with Steel.
“My first year with JB (Janine Southby) was great – it was a fresh start, the girls were amazing and I realised it was a good move to head south,” she said.
“Next came Noels (Noeline Taurua) – that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. She’s just stunning as a coach and as a person and I’m really honoured to be able to play under her.
“And then Curly (Reinga Bloxham) has kept a great bunch of girls together and the team environment created is just enormous.”
The parochial southern netball crowd had also played its part.
“There’s so many people you see after the game and, even though you don’t know them personally, they do have a connection with you and you recognise them because they come back week after week to support you,” Watson said.
“It’s very special and unique to Southland.”
Netball pundits would question leaving a championship-winning team for one which has propped up the bottom of the table in recent years, but Watson was confident the Tactix franchise was on the verge of a transformation.
“They realise that change needs to happen and I feel they’re going to make a real effort in that area,” she said.
She had enjoyed working with head coach Marianne Delany-Hoshek previously at NZA level and was familiar with those on the playing roster.
“Everyone has grown and people change. The environment would have changed since I’ve been there as well so it will be like a fresh start again.”
Representing her home region certainly had an element of pride attached and Watson was eager to see the red and black a dominant force on the national netball scene once again.
“I remember the glory days of Canterbury netball and we need to focus on getting to that place again. I’m looking forward to being part of that journey.”