Not the debut international shooter was expecting - March 17, 2020
The reputation of Steel’s fanatical netball fans stretches around the globe but it was silence which greeted Trinidad and Tobago shooter Kalifa McCollin in her ANZ Premiership debut on Monday night.
Following the Government’s announcement on crowds over 500 at events in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Steel faced its season opener at Dunedin’s Edgar Centre without its secret weapon - a parochial home crowd.
“I’ve heard they are one of the best sets of fans in the league but unfortunately I didn’t get to see that. Hopefully as we go on through the season I will get to experience that for myself,” McCollin said.
“Even because of unforeseen circumstances with no supporters in the crowd, I think we went out there and we tried to do our best with what we had as a team. We had great support on the bench and on the court so I think that was enough in itself.”
Determined to chalk up early points on the competition ladder, both teams delivered in the intensity stakes before the Magic finally edged ahead 54-48 to clinch its first victory over the southerners since the competition’s inception in 2017.
While the defeat was disappointing, McCollin was pragmatic in her assessment of the match.
“It wasn’t the result that I expected but it was our first game on the board and we’ll just go back into our playbooks and see what we can improve on and hit the ground running for the next one,” she said.
After three seasons contesting the UK’s Super League, the crafty playmaker ventured to New Zealand to further evolve her game in the elite ranks of the ANZ Premiership.
She was thriving in the professional environment of the Steel franchise.
“The girls are really nice and helpful which is great. I’m not accustomed to training three times a day so all of that is learning for me. The New Zealand style of netball is much different to the Caribbean style so I’ve already learned quite a lot in terms of my game whilst I’ve been here,” she said.
“I just want to basically add some of my creativity and flair to the team. As a collective our goal is to win the premiership so we’re just taking it step by step and game by game and hopefully we can get there in the end.”
As its 2020 campaign progresses, the Steel will continue to work with Netball New Zealand and follow Ministry of Health guidelines with regards to the coronavirus outbreak.
Pictured Above: Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel shooter Jennifer O’Connell takes aim under pressure from Splice Construction Magic goal keep Erena Mikaere with Steel goal attack Kalifa McCollin in support. Photo: Laura Overton.