Key duo Shannon Francois and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid return for Southern Steel's netball clash against the Central Pulse - June 19, 2017
by SCOTT DONALDSON
There is good and bad news on the injury front for the undefeated Southern Steel netball team.
The key duo of centre Shannon Francois and Jamaican international shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid return from injury to boost the southern netball franchise, in their clash top-of-the-table clash against the Central Pulse at ILT Stadium Southland on Monday night.
The pair were absent from the team's gutsy 51-46 round 12 victory over the Mainland Tactix along with captain Wendy Frew and goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who were all injured after the team's van was involved in an accident in Christchurch last Monday.
Frew, who required surgery to her leg and elbow, and Selby-Rickit with a rib injury will miss the match against the Pulse, but are in a race against time to be fit for the ANZ Premiership final on June 28.
Dani Gray, Sophie Erwood and Olivia Bates from the Netball South Beko League team, will remain with the squad as cover for Monday night's game, after making their debuts in the win against the Tactix.
According to Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham, there is no reason why Francois and Fowler-Reid cannot start.
"I haven't 100 per cent decided as yet, but at the moment from where they were yesterday [Saturday] they are both good to go," she said.
"It will be good, both players will be eager to get back out on the court, I don't know if Shannon [Francois] particularly likes watching from the sideline, she is definitely not used to doing something like that."
With the absence of wing defence Frew and Te Paea Selby-Rickit there will be plenty of opportunities for younger squad members and the development team trio to get further experience at the national netball league level.
"Yeah I think there are always opportunities, we will just have to see what happens in the game, but of course with Wendy [Frew] and Te Paea [Selby-Rickit] both being unavailable, it opens up some things and it does give them an opportunity and they are ready to step up and take that," Bloxham said.
Bloxham is keen for her team to get through their first home match since the accident unscathed and finish the regular season unbeaten for the second year-in-a-row so they can focus on the final nine days later.
"The way that the table is looking at the moment the Pulse are definitely through, so we could face them in the final or it could be somebody else, so I think for us it is just important that we get this game out of the way so we can solely move forward and focus on that final and make sure we are looking after our own players," she said.
"We are highly competitive in all aspects of everything we do, so we will be doing everything in our power that we can to make sure we put out a really good performance and things have been quite unsettled for us in the last week, so we need to make sure we get those connections out there on the court and do the things we need to do, with a little focus on going into that final."
AT A GLANCE:
What: Steel vs Pulse
When: Monday, 7:40pm
Where: Stadium Southland