Jamaican defender features in Steel signings


The New Zealand style of netball has always intrigued Jamaican defender Malysha Kelly so she jumped at the chance to be immersed in it next year.

The 1.85m defender will add international flair to the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel’s defensive ranks for the 2018 ANZ Premiership and joins fellow defender Abby Erwood and shooter Jennifer O’Connell as the last three player signings announced.

Erwood, a member of the NZ U21 team which secured gold at the World Youth Championships in Botswana last month, and O’Connell are two of the south’s most exciting home-grown talents who will continue to evolve returning to the Steel’s dedicated high performance environment.

Jennifer O’Connell. Photo: Dianne Manson

For Kelly, it’s an opportunity to add new skills to an already extensive repertoire.

“I’ve always wanted to learn to play the New Zealand style as a defender. To me, it is the most attractive one … I find it quite intriguing,” Kelly said.

“I watched all of Jhaniele’s games last season and I watched Steel’s defensive unit work together and it was very impressive.

“I’ve always wanted to be on top of my game so getting that exposure and getting into the New Zealand environment is very important to me.”

A stalwart of the Jamaican squad since 2008, Kelly competed at the 2011 Netball World Championships and has a bronze medal from the 2014 Commonwealth Games to her credit. She’s no stranger to plying her netball trade globally after recent campaigns with the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Australia’s Suncorp Super League and the Manchester Thunder in the UK’s Superleague.

She wasn’t daunted by the shift to Invercargill. In fact, it already had a familiar feel given Kelly’s close friendship with shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, who spend the past five seasons with the Steel.

“Jhaniele was the first person I spoke with about it. She was telling me what the culture was like and her experience and that’s when I began putting my mind around it,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to building relationships with the girls. I feel like I know a few of them already just based on what Jhaniele has told me over the years. I’m excited to come over and have my own experience.”

Playing in front of Steel’s legion of fanatical fans would be exhilarating.

“I hear it’s a very netball-orientated community that was very supportive and just loves netball.”

Steel coach Reinga Bloxham felt Kelly would add a new dynamic on defence as the team strived to defend the dual ANZ Premiership and Super Club titles won this year.

“I spoke to Thunderbirds coach Dan Ryan and some of the words he used to describe her were tenacious, strong, hard-working, a team player and he felt her style of netball would be very suited to the style we play in New Zealand,” she said.

“She’s a very aerial player and our style will give her time to attack the ball in the air. We like to use space, look for the ball and hunt and I think it’s exciting that she is that type of player.

“The other nice aspect is we’re still getting a Jamaican connection. Even though we’ve lost Jhaniele, we’ve still got that sass and spice in our team environment.”

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