Steel midcourter to celebrate 50th game - July 30, 2021
Not much whizzes past Kate Heffernan but an impressive milestone nearly did.
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel midcourter will rack up her 50th ANZ Premiership appearance during this Sunday’s Elimination Final against The Good Oil Tactix at ILT Stadium Southland.
“I didn’t think I was anywhere near it, so I had no idea and hadn’t even thought about it,” Heffernan admits.
“It definitely snuck up on me but I am excited. It is really special, especially to be able to play my 50th in Invercargill. And it’s a cool game to do it in as well.”
While anticipating a fierce South Island showdown in the must-win encounter, Heffernan was confident the Steel could emerge victorious and lock in a Grand Final appearance against the Mystics.
“It’s going to be a really challenging game but we just have so much belief that we can do it. We’re just excited to actually get out there and do it,” she said.
“The Tactix are a tough opponent. They’re a really strong team, super experienced and they were in the Grand Final last year … they’ve got some strong Ferns and players that have played a lot of years.”
Playing on home turf added a vital advantage.
“We were so stoked when we got the home game. It makes a massive difference and it’s awesome to hear ticket sales are going well so hopefully we will have another massive crowd like we did against the Pulse.
“My family and quite a few friends are coming down to it so that’s pretty cool.”
Now in her fourth season with the Steel, Heffernan has laid claim to the centre bib following a midcourt revamp.
“I played centre growing up and all through school. Once I made the Steel, it was the first time I’d actually ever played wing defence but I did come to love it. I really enjoyed the opportunities I was getting at wing defence for Steel,” she said.
“Coming back to centre though I’ve absolutely loved it. I had forgotten how much I love it. I’ve got such a good team around me which means I’ve just been able to actually enjoy it which has been so cool.”
Combining elements of both her hallmark defensive prowess with attacking vision has earned Heffernan plenty of kudos from netball pundits.
“What I’m loving about this team is that obviously I’m a defensive centre being a wing defence and I hadn’t done much feeding for a few years, but our attacking end is so strong with Shannon (Saunders), Tiana (Metuarau) and George (Fisher),” she said.
“They all do their job so well that it takes the pressure off me, and I can just support in my attacking role when I’m needed, allowing me to go hard on defence and that’s probably my strength. I’m so lucky with the team I’m in.”
If preseason predictions are any indication, the 2021 Steel roster has undoubtedly exceeded expectations – a fact not lost on Heffernan.
“We are really proud of the way we’ve been able to get better and better. We’ve been able to see improvements from each game. Obviously, we have had four losses but we’ve been able to bounce back from them and bounce back really well,” she said.
“And even if we have a good win, we’ve been able to push on and find things to work on. Things we talk about and do at training, we’ve been able to put out on court in the game and I think that’s something really special about this team. That’s massive for us.”
Heffernan’s exceptional progress has impressed Steel head coach Reinga Bloxham.
“Kate is a very talented and driven player who takes on all new challenges without any fuss. She’s worked really hard on improving her performances this season in the centre bib,” she said.
“She has the ability to turn the ball over and is quick and rangy for a midcourter. She’s developing her leadership skills as well, contributes to team meetings and isn’t afraid to share her thoughts.
“She really is great to coach – always asks questions and does her homework.”
Sunday’s ANZ Premiership Elimination Final starts is 4.20pm. Tickets are available from ILT Stadium Southland and online at www.ticketek.co.nz.