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New name, new perspective for Steel defender

May 2, 2024

Abby Lawson has found love – on and off the netball court.

The likable defender, nee Erwood, is back in Steel colours after a three-year hiatus and boasting a new surname after marrying Chris Lawson in December.

“The name has taken a bit of getting used to but it has also been a blessing in disguise because it has helped me to come into this season and, not leave Erwood behind per se, but be completely fresh as a Lawson. It’s kind of like I’ve put everything behind me and it’s a whole new person starting my career,” she said.

“The Erwood name means so much to me but now I’m creating a new life with Chris and the Lawson name. I accomplished so much as an Erwood – I got to play for New Zealand with my twin sister and notch up 50 games for the Steel – but now we get to see what the ‘Lawson’ Abby does.”

After five seasons with the Steel, including two ANZ Premiership titles in 2017 and 2018, Lawson headed north to Central and a few appearances for the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in 2021 before taking a complete break from the sport.

A quintessential southern lass, it presented the chance to embark on her other passion – farming – and take on a role as shepherd on a station near Wanaka.

“Farming is a lifestyle. Every day is never the same and that’s what I love about it,” she said.

“It’s the people you work with and just being outside. You’re not sure when you’re going to finish work because you just keep going until the job is done. There’s a real satisfaction you get from doing stuff off the land and looking after the sheep. It’s a hard thing to describe because it’s just an unreal lifestyle to be brought up in and you can’t really explain it to people unless they are as well.

“Having those years off professional netball and living in Wanaka was great. I just played club netball again and I absolutely loved it.”

With a competitive urge reignited, Lawson joined the ranks of the Southern Blast team for the Synergy Hair Netball League in 2023. Steel head coach Reinga Bloxham then phoned unexpectantly.

“It was never really in my mind to chase a Steel contract. I wanted to have fun and that’s what I did. I played some good netball for that reason,” she said.

“When Steel popped up, I was in two minds as to whether it was what I wanted back in my life but decided if I was going to do it, I was going to go in guns blazing.

“I was so nervous the first day I went back – it felt like I would be starting from scratch again. But it was like I’d never left and, because of the people that are in there, it was literally just like going home. It was weird, but in a good and exciting way.

“It all just comes flooding back to you and you realise the moments you have missed. These are the little things you cherish more and are so grateful for and I don’t think you necessarily have that until you’ve been removed from the environment. You realise actually how special it all is.”

It fuels a new focus.

“My mindset going into this season, even though I am a contracted player, is just to have fun and not think about the potential pressure on my shoulders. It’s just another game of netball that I am honoured to play,” Lawson said.

“In my mind now that I’ve stepped away and come back, you never know if this is your last game or not. The biggest thing that’s driving me at the moment is knowing any game could be my last. You don’t know what lies ahead of you so by having that respect for it, you just want to go out there and smash it and enjoy playing the game you love with awesome people.

“You definitely appreciate what you have and that it can be gone in an instant.”

Lawson was thriving with a renewed netball/life balance.

“Netball was all-consuming for so long. Now I understand that actually I play my best when I’m not in that netball environment 24-7, living, breathing and talking about it.

“It’s quite nice to go back to the farm or chat to Chris who has no interest whatsoever in netball. He just knows if we’ve won or lost but couldn’t tell me about the game,” she chuckled.

“It’s definitely given me a different perspective. I never really got a break straight out of school so I’d never had any time away from netball. Then all of a sudden I was forced to have it and, while there were a lot of things I missed, there were things I discovered as well.”

Including love as Lawson tied the knot.

“My boss discovered Lookout Lodge in Wanaka and I knew it was definitely where I wanted to get married. We asked about availability and there was just one spot left for the year … so we just locked it in and did it,” she said.

“I planned the wedding in about five months and it was an absolute ball. I keep telling everyone they should get married because it truly was the best night of my life.”

She’s hoping Saturday night at ILT Stadium Southland is another memorable occasion as the Steel host the Robinhood Stars for their round four clash. While both teams are yet to record a win for 2024, the southerners losing streak now spans 21 games.

“In our opening game, I just knew in my heart that we could do way better. Then the girls said it was their 19th loss in a row and that really struck me. Every game matters and I just can’t wait to go out there but for some of our team breaking that streak is high on their priorities because they have been feeling the hurt of that much longer.

“We’ve got the belief, we just need to put it into a game for 60 minutes to get the result that we’re almost trying too hard to strive for.

“We faced all different scenarios in the past three games – we’ve been down on the scoreboard, we’ve been ahead, we’ve fought back bravely and we’ve been smashed straight out of the box in the first quarter. So now let’s just go out there and do it for the full 60 and get what we want which is a win.”

Lawson was confident a parochial home crowd would prove an edge.

“It’s going to be a really good battle but being at home is going to be that tipping point for us. With the support of everyone and knowing now that we can do it, I think this will be the one. We just need to get it and ignite that winning momentum,” she said.


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