Southern Steel to take on Mainland Tactix in national netball league without some of their stars - June 14, 2017
by SCOTT DONALDSON
Before Monday, the top-of-the-table Southern Steel were hot favourites to beat the Mainland Tactix on Wednesday night in their national netball league clash.
But the depth of the Southern Steel netball squad will be tested with up to six players to be rested for their national netball league clash against the Mainland Tactix on Wednesday night in Christchurch, after a motor vehicle accident.
The van in which six players were travelling in was struck by a car at an intersection and ended up on its side on Monday in Christchurch, with four key starting players requiring medical treatment.
Captain Wendy Frew, who underwent surgery on her elbow and leg and Silver Ferns goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit with a rib injury, will miss the game against the bottom-placed Tactix, while star shooter Jamaican international Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, along with midcourt maestro Shannon Francois are also in doubt, which would leave the Steel without some of their experienced stars.
"She [Wendy Frew] definitely won't be playing Wednesday night and we are just going to take it day by day to assess how she is going," Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham said.
With the top spot and a home final already sewn up, the Steel will be sweating on the fitness of their injured stars, with the competition's final at ILT Stadium Southland on June 28.
"We know that the final is 15 days from now [Tuesday], that is our main focus and we will do everything in our power to make sure we have got all of our players available for that," Bloxham said.
Bloxham is aware of the unexpected challenge ahead against the Tactix, as the unbeaten Southern Steel look to maintain their unbeaten record in 2017 heading into the finals.
"It is a difficult situation for us, obviously we would love to have all of our players available and it hasn't been ideal and we have had to make plans rather quickly, so we are just lucky enough we have got depth in our zone, so we have been able to bring those players in."
The Steel have called in four youngsters from their Netball South Beko League team to provide cover, with the availability of the rest of the existing squad to be determined on Wednesday.
Netball South development league players Aliyah Dunn, Sophie Erwood, Dani Gray and Olivia Bates have been called up into the squad and could potentially step up for their first starts at the ANZ Premiership level.
"We are just trying to work through a few things logistically, we are hoping that if we can use as many players as we can then we will do that and then just bring in our Beko squad members as we need them," Bloxham said.
"On the flipside, it does give them an opportunity to have a go at the ANZ competition and an opportunity to see what that next level is like."
"The players we have been looking at have been players that we have used in our pre-season so that sort of helps with that connection."
Wednesday's match shapes as an intriguing battle, with the Steel only just edging the bottom-placed Tactix 61-55 in their round seven match, after the competition leaders rotated their squad during the game to rest their stars.
At a glance
What: Steel vs Tactix
When: Wednesday 6pm
Where: Horncastle Arena, Christchurch