Steel trio to bring up 50th ANZP game - March 12, 2020
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel will launch its ANZ Premiership campaign on Monday celebrating a significant milestone for a loyal trio.
When they take the court against Splice Construction Magic in Dunedin on Monday night, co-captains Gina Crampton and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit will join head coach Reinga Bloxham as the first in the franchise’s ranks to notch up their 50th game in New Zealand’s premier netball league.
It’s an impressive feat to play in every Steel game since the competition’s inception in 2017, including two Premiership victories. They join an elite group on target to clinch the honour during the ANZP’s opening round, alongside Pulse’s Katrina Grant and Claire Kersten and Magic midcourter Whitney Souness.
“It’s nice to share this with Gina and Reinga and it’s really a milestone for the whole team to celebrate. Everyone has contributed to us being able to reach this amount of games so quickly,” Selby-Rickit said.
“It’s not something you keep track of but when you take a moment to reflect, it is really special,” Crampton added.
The ANZ Premiership had continued to evolve.
“We’ve developed six very strong teams now. Every game is a huge challenge and there’s no real areas of the court which are easy to exploit. The strength of all teams has increased so much,” Selby-Rickit said.
“If you were a betting man, you could put your money on any team and honestly not know if they would be coming first or last – it’s really that unpredictable now which is great for our sport.”
Crampton believed the Silver Ferns dominance on the world stage would have a positive impact.
“Everyone is bringing that success back to their franchise teams so the skill level and the intensity is lifting as a result,” she said.
Monday’s clash against the Magic looms as a humdinger after the visitors snatched bragging rights 57-47 in a recent pre-season contest.
“We’re definitely expecting a lot of energy and speed from them. We’ll need to really be on our game and so will the crowd – bums on seats to cheer us on absolutely makes a difference,” Crampton said.
Following the retirement of inspirational captain Casey Kopua, Magic has recruited solidly in its defensive ranks with former 1.92m Steel player Erena Mikaere joined by talented youngster Holly Fowler, while Australian shooter Georgia Marshall looms as an unknown threat under the goalpost.
“They were really sharp when we played them and totally took it to us. We’ve done our homework now and we’re ready to amend that result on the scoresheet which counts,” Te Huinga said.
Steel chief executive Lana Winders was keen to bolster the home crowd in anticipation for a “hard-fought” match.
“Magic will be coming into Dunedin feeling quite confident after their 10-goal win over the Steel at Otaki just two weeks ago, but our Steel girls will be ready. They’ve done their homework and the intensity of their pre-season programme has prepared them well,” she said.
“What Steel didn’t have in Otaki, but which could give them the real edge on Monday, is the energy of a local Dunedin crowd cheering them on. There’s plenty of away games to watch the Steel on television so when they are on home turf in Otago it’s the chance to let the girls see and hear our support.”
Steel has an array of initiatives planned to reward its parochial supporters at home games this season, kicking off with free t-shirts for the first 500 kids at Monday’s game.
Netball’s pathway to the top echelon will also be reinforced with St Hilda’s Collegiate and Columba College contesting the curtain-raiser.
“It wasn’t so long ago that our own Steel twin sisters Kate and Georgia Heffernan were themselves representing St Hilda’s at secondary school level so it really demonstrates what’s possible for our local players to progress in our sport,” Winders said.
“These two schools have a proud sporting rivalry, especially when it comes to the netball court, so we’re expecting a great spectacle.”
Game tickets and Steel membership packages are available from www.ticketrocket.co.nz and the Edgar Centre.