Savai’inaea enjoying life in the south - April 28, 2021
They say life begins when you step outside your comfort zone, as tenacious Steel midcourter Renee Savai’inaea is discovering.
The decision to leave her Wellington home and head south to the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel franchise wasn’t an easy one for the 20-year-old but she’s embracing the change.
“It’s been great. I’m loving it down here with the girls and the environment Steel creates,” she said.
“To leave my family was a hard decision because I’m such a home person. But Tiana (Metuarau) joining Steel as well made it easier because she was a bit of home coming too.”
After plying their trade exclusively in the central zone, the dynamic duo is relishing the opportunity to secure regular court time in the Steel ranks.
“It was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone but it’s been nice to have a new perspective, new coaching and new faces around,” Savai’inaea said.
“I just want to achieve a consistent playing season and learn as much as I can. I’m happy with where I’m at and I have great support around me.”
If fun off the court translates to success on it, the Steel are set for a cracker season. Boasting the youngest team in the league, the atmosphere is an energetic one which Savai’inaea is enjoying.
“There is a cool vibe. We all just love being around each other – it’s so much fun,” she said.
“It’s a great mix. As younger players we have new ideas to share and then we have two awesome older players that we can all learn from. Shannon (Saunders) brings so much experience from the Ferns and Hu (Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit) knows this game in and out so there’s a lot of knowledge we can tap into.
“We’re slowly building as a team and we know we will get to where we want to be. We believe we can do it.”
This Sunday’s ANZ Premiership match at ILT Stadium Southland will be Savai’inaea’s first showdown against her former teammates at Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse, a team she was part of for three seasons.
“I’m excited because I’m just happy to see everyone. It will be a great game – it always is when you’re playing against your friends and there’s bragging rights up for grabs.”
After an impressive 18-goal victory over The Good Oil Tactix in the opening round, the southerners were left ruing a lacklustre start in last weekend’s 58-64 loss to the Northern Mystics.
“If we just nail our little things and have a really good start that will be crucial,” Savai’inaea said.
“That’s been a real focus at training this week.”
After three years braving Steel’s fanatical supporters as the enemy, Savai’inaea admits it’s easier to enter the fortress decked out in the home team’s kit.
“The atmosphere is amazing down here. The Steel crowd is so supportive and it’s way better being on the right side of them. You can feel their energy during the game and it’s such a powerful motivator out there on court.”
The Steel will take on the Pulse at 4pm on Sunday. Tickets are available from ILT Stadium Southland or online at www.ticketek.co.nz.
Caption: Renee Savai’inaea in action for the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography