100 game milestone for integral member of the Steel franchise - July 22, 2021
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel will celebrate the 100th game milestone of a crucial team member on Saturday - even though she has never actually played.
Steel event and sponsorship manager Sonya Fleming will notch up her 100th national assignment in charge when the southerners take on the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse at ILT Stadium Southland.
Steel media manager Kate Buchanan has worked with Fleming from the outset.
“There are so many elements to running a successful sporting event and Sonya’s ability to meld it all together is unrivalled. Every aspect of the game is meticulously planned, scrutinised and executed to the highest standard - it’s impressive to watch,” she said.
“Probably the only thing Sonya can’t control is the scoreboard but then again, you could argue the atmosphere she creates ultimately has an impact on that as well.
“It’s fantastic to see Sonya record this milestone. Her influence has definitely seen the Steel franchise evolve in the professionalism stakes and that’s testament to the high standard she set from the very beginning - always respecting the skillset others brought to their respective roles while creating and leading a highly effective event team.”
Fleming has racked up an impressive array of stats since Steel’s first home game on 5 May 2008.
For the 99 games played so far, 10,786 goals have been scored during 5,892 minutes of netball action. The odds remain in Steel favour with 61 wins, 2 draws and 30 losses. Five of the home games have been part of the Finals Series, with Steel winning twice. The other six games Fleming has been at the helm of have been non-Steel games, including Super Sunday events.
The majority of matches have been played at Steel’s ILT Stadium Southland fortress with 61, along with 29 in Dunedin and eight in the velodrome following the stadium collapse in 2010. The only game staged outside of the Netball South Zone was the 2018 ANZ Premiership final in Palmerston North which featured Steel’s dynamic 54-53 title defence.
Former Steel captain Wendy Frew remembers the come-from-behind victory fondly.
“Even though we were in enemy territory, to see Sonya courtside added an element of home for us that day and a friendly face,” she recalled.
“She’s been so committed to the franchise over all these years and has always delivered an excellent atmosphere at our games. Sonya does anything for the players to make it all run smoothly and has a heart of gold.”
Fleming’s prowess running events has seen her recruited by Netball New Zealand to assist at various international fixtures, including six international Tests, Super Club and the Fast 5 Netball World Series.
Netball New Zealand strategic projects lead Kate Agnew has worked with Fleming throughout the Steel era.
“For over 13 years Sonya has been the leader of the pack – consistently delivering high quality event experiences at ANZ Championship and Premiership matches. She has led the way among Premiership teams with exciting and varied on-court entertainment and off-court hospitality offerings,” she said.
“Sonya develops strong working relationships and will go the extra mile while there is always a lot of laughter and fun. She has a strong sense of what Steel stands for and represents this with great southern pride no matter where she goes. Her roles at events such as Super Club and FAST5 have showcased her abilities on the national stage and how fortunate the south is to have Sonya.”
No stranger to hosting an array of national and international events, ILT Stadium Southland general manager Nigel Skelt rated Fleming’s abilities highly.
“Sonya epitomises the human aspect of the Steel family. She is the ultimate professional in all aspects of her work and has a delightful, effervescent, bubbly character that inspires others,” he said.
“Steel are incredibly fortunate to have Sonya as an integral part of the team. She’s almost camp mother or a founding brick within the building.”