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Double delight for Heffernan

17 May 2024

 

A reflection of her unofficial status as a true southerner, Kate Heffernan has earned double recognition for her sporting prowess.

The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel captain was this week named as a finalist in both the ILT Southland Sports Awards and Skeggs Foundation Otago Sports Awards.

“It is cool to be named amongst those incredible athletes and it’s great to see the mix of sports represented,” she said.

Heffernan was raised in Tapanui so almost has a foot on each side of the provincial border.

“Growing up I was always from West Otago but now I also have a real connection to Southland through the Steel. So, I guess I am an all-round southern girl and I’m proud to be part of both communities.”

Amongst the accolades she has received nationally and internationally, standout performances for the Silver Ferns saw Heffernan named midcourter of the year at the Netball World Cup in South Africa last year – although she admits it felt bittersweet initially.

“I do remember it as a tough campaign. While I loved being part of the world cup, it was just so disappointing in the end to miss out on a medal and come fourth,” she said.

“It was a really cool experience to be able to go to South Africa and be part of a world cup but when I think of it there’s a lot of mixed emotions.

“At the time when I did get that award, I thought it was nice recognition but I was more just gutted for the whole team not coming away with a medal. No-one wants to come fourth. I remember watching the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games when I was younger and seeing the person come fourth and thinking ‘oh that must be so gutting’ and then for it to actually happen.”

Together with her teammates, Heffernan has her sights firmly set on redemption.

“When we talk about it, we just want that gold medal even more now so it really does fuel the fire.”

A seasoned campaigner in the ANZ Premiership, she was rapt to finally lead the Steel to victory earlier this month after a 713-day hiatus.

“We needed that but the funny thing was, I already had the confidence and belief before we got the actual win. Success isn’t always measured by a win – there are other things to celebrate in every game and it just always felt like we were moving in a cool direction so to finally get the reward for that on the scoreboard was great,” she said.

“What did give us a confidence boost was knowing we could actually do it, especially in that situation where we were down because we just showed so much fight. Now, no matter what situation we are in, we definitely have that belief.

“The reality is you’ve got to perform for a whole game if you want to get those wins and at the moment we’re just showing 45-minute performances or even 52-minute performances. The teams are so strong that before you know it you’re down by six or seven and unfortunately that’s what’s happening.

“We know we can do it if we play to our potential. We can beat or be in the game against any team, we just can’t let it blow out. Those wee lapses of focus or concentration that we have are costly.”

Heffernan was enjoying her new role at the helm of the team.

“I’m loving the team and the environment. It’s exciting and we have a lot more to give and a lot more wins,” she said.

“I’m learning as I go with the captaincy. I think it has been really good for me because I’m so used to just worrying about myself and now I have to have more awareness of making sure the team feels good and everything is going smoothly.

“It gives me a new perspective. I learned how to focus on my own job and now the challenge for me is to do that while also being able to execute that important leadership role at the same time. I’m enjoying the challenge.”

Steel’s next assignment is against the Trident Homes Tactix in Rangiora on Sunday – a team which inflicted a 17-goal hammering last time they met.  

“We’re excited to redeem ourselves after that performance. We always love coming up against the Tactix – they’re such a strong side. We are a much different team than we were when we faced them in round one,” Heffernan said.

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