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100th game looms for Steel manager - April 14, 2023

You could describe Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel manager Dayna Kaio’s debut ANZ Premiership netball game as a baptism of fire. In fact, it was her first gig ever as a team manager.

Testament to her logistical prowess and resilient work ethic, she will rack up her 100th match with the franchise against the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in Wellington on Monday night.

“When I look back now to 2017, I had never even managed a netball team before and now I’m about to hit 100 games. It feels surreal and I’m pretty overwhelmed thinking about it to be honest,” Kaio said.

“It’s been an interesting journey. Every year is a highlight for its own unique reasons but that first year was special. We had the dream team – a lot of great leaders and talented players to secure our first ANZ Premiership title.”

Equipped with the right traits conducive to the integral role, Kaio has excelled in the Steel environment.

“By nature I’m a pretty easy-going person and nothing fazes me,” she said. “If I don’t get something right, that’s okay because we all learn from our mistakes.”

The advent of Covid-19 proved to be the most difficult period to navigate.

“You were always booking things and then unbooking them and then rebooking them. It was a massive challenge but you just had to do it with a smile on your face all while juggling constantly changing protocols as the country tried to adapt to the situation,” Kaio said.

“We were lucky because our team just got on with it and that’s reflective of our values within the franchise, both as a playing group and the staff.

“People tend to forget about the franchise behind the team but I rely on those staff a lot. If you have a good strong foundation then you can build anything from there.”

The chance to form new connections was a key aspect of the job Kaio relished.

“I just love all the opportunities I’ve had to meet new people and develop those friendships,” she said.

“Witnessing the development of our players has been amazing. Kate and Georgia Heffernan were like little schoolgirls initially and now they are high performance athletes so to be able to watch their progress is pretty special.”

As one of Southland’s top ladies’ golfers, Kaio is known to share her other passion with the Steel players.

“They all know I love my golf and wanted to have a go so it was nice for them to experience something different to netball. They were actually getting pretty frustrated with that little white ball though,” she quipped.

Shooter George Fisher described Kaio as the “team mum”.

“Dayna is so bubbly and always brings an infectious laugh to trainings and match day. She’s the team mum and is always taking the best care of us – even if that’s just some loose change for the vending machines,” she said.

“When I moved from the UK to Invercargill Dayna was amazing at making me feel at home. She helped me get settled and made that transition for a wee 22-year-old as seamless as possible – whether that was taking us all down to hit some golf balls or simply telling us what to pack into our traveling bags.”

A double-header weekend awaits the Steel who will tackle the Robinhood Stars in Auckland tomorrow night before venturing south to face the Pulse.

While a win has alluded the Steel so far this season, there was plenty to celebrate.

“There has been a lot of milestones within the team and we need to celebrate the good things,” Kaio said.

“We’ve had some strong trainings this week with positive vibes so we just need to get up there and put it all out on court.”


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