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Resilient Steel eager for South Island showdown

April 11, 2024

Challenges thrown at the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel during preseason will add another level of resilience as the team heads into it’s opening game of the ANZ Premiership season.

Head coach Reinga Bloxham hasn’t had the luxury of a full squad at any stage due to injury niggles and international playing commitments, but it doesn’t faze her.

“Of course, in the perfect world you would have all players available but that’s just not the nature of sport. The flip side is we’ve had to adjust to a range of scenarios and that’s added to our arsenal,” she said.

“Everyone has risen to the challenge and I am confident we are ready to prove our mettle right from that first centre pass.

“Preseason is such an important phase of the overall plan but it’s also full of excited anticipation. The players are at the point now where they just really want to get out on court in a game where the score truly counts.

“Everyone has worked extremely hard over the past few months – our players, management team and franchise staff – so it’s a great feeling to finally get the season underway and reward all the mahi which has taken place.”

The Steel will open its 2024 campaign against the Trident Homes Mainland Tactix in Christchurch on Monday night.

“The Southern derby against the Tactix always provides plenty of fireworks and Round 1 of the ANZ Premiership 2024 will be no exception. We will both battle it out and leave it all on the court,” Bloxham said.

Having racked up 22 encounters in the league, a 17-goal victory in the opening game of 2022 was the last time the southerners managed a win over the Tactix – a statistic they will be determined to rectify.

It won’t be an easy task with the Tactix boasting the most national league experience across their 10 contracted players with 819 matches, including four players who have played 100 or more national league matches - Te Paea Selby-Rickit 153, Jane Watson 148, Erikana Pedersen 104 and Karin Burger 103.

The Steel’s ten contracted players have played a combined total of 575 matches which is the second most in 2024. However, a fair chunk of that – 159 in fact - can be attributed to midcourter Shannon Saunders.

After taking a year off to welcome daughter Madison, Saunders will be forced to wait slightly longer before her highly-anticipated return to the court after being ruled out with injury. Shooter Jen O’Connell faces a similar situation, side-lined due to concussion sustained at a preseason tournament in Dunedin last month.

Bloxham is currently assessing her options when it comes to replacing the experienced duo.

Silver Ferns Kate and Georgia Heffernan will be joined by highly-rated South African Proteas defender Jeante Strydom, Taneisha Fifita, Abby Lawson (nee Erwood), Renee Savai’inaea, Ivari Christie and Grace Namana.

The Steel will return to its home fortress at ILT Stadium Southland on Monday, 22 April, when hosting the defending champions, MG Northern Mystics. Tickets are on sale online from or at the venue.


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