Exhibition match finishes Steel season on a high note

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Pink Panthers goal attack Shannon Saunders takes a pass during the exhibition netball match against the Blue Cods at ILT Stadium Southlnd in Invercargill on Sunday.

SOUTHERN Steel player Shannon Saunders is finishing her career as a shooter.

The netball player, more used to wearing the centre and wing attack bibs, had a stint at goal attack during the curtain-raiser netball match which saw the Blue Cods take on the Pink Panthers at ILT Stadium Southland on Sunday evening.

The game was a precursor to the ANZ premiership netball final between Central Pulse and Mainland Tactix.

When asked if she would be putting her name forward for a shooter’s bib in the Silver Ferns squad Saunders replied, “After that performance absolutely not, that was terrible. I don’t like playing shooter, it’s too much pressure”.

It wasn’t the game Steel expected to play but it was definitely a fun ending to what had been a stop-start season due to Covid-19.

Steel was set to play one of three games during the ANZ premiership final on Sunday, however a change to Alert Level 2 a few weeks ago, put the kibosh on the original plan and so Netball New Zealand rallied to pull together a game which featured Steel and Southland men’s team players as well as a few faces from other sporting codes.

This was a game of elevation and vigour – and it was fast. The introduction of two-point goals and the addition of the males in both teams meant it was exciting to watch.

The ball flew down either end with speed, sometimes catching out both opposition and their own team members.

Sometimes it was a mad dash with rolling subs not quite getting their bibs on in time to catch a ball being thrown at them.

It was the Blue Cods which took the victory.

For coaches Gina Crampton (Pink Panthers) and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit (Blue Cods) it was all about winning and bragging rights.

“I’m so gutted about that,” losing captain Crampton said.

“We did have an agreement.”

However, they were coy when asked what the agreement was.

“We can’t really say what that was,” Selby-Rickit said.

Crampton believed Steel’s ANZ premiership season had provided a lot of challenges but also showed how adaptable the team was.

The finish with the game on Sunday was just about enjoying netball.

“Yes, it was actually really, really fun,” Selby-Rickit said.

“To end like that after the season we’ve had… it was really good to get the mix of us, the Beko and the men. It was awesome and it looked like they had a lot of fun out there.”

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