Homegrown Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham 'never dreamed of' unbeaten season - June 29, 2017
by SCOTT DONALDSON
Homegrown Southern Steel netball head coach Reinga Bloxham's debut season has exceeded her expectations.
Bloxham was the assistant coach under Noeline Taurua at the southern netball franchise in 2016 and has led the team to the inaugural ANZ Premiership without dropping a match, in her first season at the helm.
The Steel won 16 matches on-the-trot, including a 16 goal victory over the Central Pulse 69-53 in the grand final, in front of a passionate crowd of 3000 fans at ILT Stadium Southland.
While Bloxham took over the most settled squad in the competition, including international stars like Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, Shannon Francois and Jane Watson, she never imagined the team would be so dominant in the first year of the new national premiership competition.
"When I took the job on, I knew I had a bunch of girls that were committed to the cause and that were consistent, but hoped that we would be able to get to the final and then win it," she said.
"I never dreamed that we would go through unbeaten, it was a bit of a juggernaut, we just carried on and went from week to week and strength to strength."
According to Bloxham, a key to the team's success was constantly trying to lift their game, despite being the best side in the competition, which helped to keep them grounded heading into the final as overwhelming favourites.
"A real focus and a real culture in our team was making sure we were always improving the whole time and pushing each other, I think that is the thing I am proud of the most," she said.
"There is always that pressure, but I think we didn't set ourselves up for that, we really did just focus on ourselves a lot of the time and just thought how we could be better."
"I think this was a really important focus for me and not just thinking about the end result."
It was a relatively seamless process when Bloxham stepped up and took over the reins at the franchise from Taurua, after getting to know the players and management in 2016.
"I think the best thing about the transition was that I knew the girls, but they also knew me as the assistant coach, so I sort of had to find my feet in the head coach's role," she said.
"That did take a wee while, but I think I might have done a good job."
The Southlander thinks the format of the new national netball premiership provided some fresh challenges this season, although she would ideally love for the Steel to have a "crack" against the top Australian teams at some stage.
"I think it provided new challenges with the structure of the competition and the back-to-back games and the shorter turnarounds, so those sorts of things, it is nice to get back to the New Zealand style everyone has been talking about," she said.
"But also we have been able to blood younger players throughout the whole competition, that has got to be good for our netball in the future."