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Savai’inaea embraces new challenge - April 28, 2023

When Renee Savai’inaea got thrust into the game against the MG Mystics earlier this month, she wasn’t expecting head coach Reinga Bloxham to hand her the wing attack bib.

But it takes more than that to rattle the steadfast midcourter and she handled her new assignment with aplomb.

“The first time Reinga approached me about it was during the game and she just said ‘let’s do something really crazy and chuck you in there’,” she recalled.

“She said my strength is my feeding and I’m really good at putting some love on the pass … so that’s how it happened.

“It’s completely new to me. I’ve always been on defence and never played wing attack before so it is a challenge. I definitely have a new respect for wing attacks coming from being a wing defence but it’s a good challenge and feeding shooters is always fun.”

First recruited into the ranks of the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse as a teenager in 2017, Savai’inaea ventured south to join the Steel in 2021 and has since chalked up the solid court time she was seeking.

Adding another position to her playing resume, she continues to build on her midcourt credentials.

“For me, this year has been different and more of a learning year – especially because I’m in a new position so there’s a lot of learning to come.”

The former NZ U21 squad member and NZ Secondary Schools representative believes the Steel is frustratingly close to its first win of the season – the opening half of last week’s match against the Trident Homes Tactix testament to its capabilities.

“We’re doing great things in patches and short bursts but we need to put it together into a full performance,” she said.

“We wanted to be in a fight from the first quarter against the Tactix and that’s what we did. Even the second quarter wasn’t too bad only being down by four going into half time. It’s mainly that second half we need to work on and just keep pushing on our good things and keep going like that.

“Our trainings are definitely really intense and we’re just trying to perfect what we’re good at and do our own job on court. Everyone is working really hard to make it happen.”

The league’s congested points table presents an opportunity for Steel to still make an impact.

“I think we’re definitely in a privileged position now to try and knock a few teams off and cause havoc within the top four. That’s our goal because we want to win. As we’ve said ourselves, our win will come when we all know we’re working really hard on court.”

The Pulse looms as the next target for Steel – this time with home turf advantage at ILT Stadium Southland on Saturday night.

“We weren’t very happy with our last performance against the Pulse because we’d come off a really good game against the Stars. So yes, there’s an element of redemption we’re after. We just need to go back to our basics and doing our own job well, not trying to be fancy or anything,” Savai’inaea said.

Caption: Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel midcourter Renee Savai’inaea in action. Photo credit: Michael Bradley Photography.


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