Steel set to begin 2024 campaign - January 22, 2024
Preparations for the 2024 ANZ Premiership season kick off today for the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel squad and coach Reinga Bloxham has already set high expectations.
“I always get excited for day one. Each year you plan and prepare for this day where it all begins,” she said.
“What I’m most looking forward to is seeing how this group of players moulds together – what culture they can create, how they perform and what they're prepared to do.”
While the bulk of the squad has gathered in Invercargill, Kate and Georgia Heffernan will join them after Waitangi Day when their current Silver Ferns duties conclude, along with new recruit Jeante Strydom, from South Africa, and England international George Fisher.
“The first few weeks are about setting and settling routines and practices while building culture and values and getting to know each other,” Bloxham said.
“My expectations are to get the best out of them, to prepare for the competition and to find winning combinations. Effort is huge to train to win every session and push yourself and others all the way.”
It’s a squad brimming with potential, spearheaded by five current or former international players.
Highly rated South African Proteas defender Strydom adds her talents into the mix, along with former England Roses shooter Fisher, the highly-rated Heffernan twins and experienced former Silver Fern Shannon Saunders, who has 90 Test caps to her credit.
Completing the 2024 roster are defenders Taneisha Fifita and Abby Lawson (nee Erwood), midcourters Renee Savai’inaea and Ivari Christie and shooter Grace Namana.
“We have a real familiar feel about this squad. Most have been a part of the steel at some point so I'm looking forward to that familiarity. It's important to set new goals and expectations but the good thing is we have an advantage of knowing the players a little deeper than a brand new squad,” Bloxham said.
She was rapt to see Georgia Heffernan earn her Silver Ferns debut during the opening game of the Vitality Netball Nations Cup in London at the weekend.
“I was so excited that Georgia had forced herself into the playing 12 then got the start. To then stay in for a full 60 minutes against the world champion Australian Diamonds while she was thrown every circle defence move in the book to contend with says it all really,” she said.
“I could tell she was nervous at the beginning but thought she settled in and then fed Grace well and finished off her shots. She'll be proud of that debut.
“I was super proud of her, Kate and our manager Dayna Kaio for all representing themselves, their whanau and their country.”