Steel players relish challenge

Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel players train at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill last Friday.

ALTHOUGH it has been an unusual training season so far, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel are looking forward to the challenges of the ANZ Premiership.

Training at ILT Stadium Southland last Friday before Sunday’s game against the Mainland Tactix in Christchurch, the squad was dialling in the nuances of playing with a newly formed team.

Southern Steel captain Shannon Saunders said there was a degree of nervous anticipation for the upcoming games.

“I think once we get one or two under our belt we’ll kind of get a better idea of where we’re at because we haven’t really played against other teams much yet.”

Due to the continued spread of Omicron, Steel has been prompted to change the venues for two games this season, in order to mitigate risk.

Steel’s round three fixture against the Robinhood Stars in Dunedin on March 27 and round six clash with the MG Mystics in Queenstown on April 17 will now be played at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill.

“You’ve just got to roll with what’s happening at the moment, it’s a very fluid environment and we’re very adaptable and I suppose we’ve had the last two years to adapt to lots of different scenarios. We just take it week by week and see how we track along,” Saunders said.

Netball New Zealand and Sky were supportive of the team’s request to move the games.

Coach Reinga Bloxham said she was fairly confident for the season, and keen to get started to see what the new team looked like playing against other teams, although she was wary of the off-court challenges caused by the pandemic.

“I think this year’s gonna create lots of challenges with teams being able to put a team out on court each week. It might not be as consistent as it has been in the past in terms of having a starting seven and things like that – that’s starting to change week to week depending on illness and all that sort of stuff, so I think it’s creating some real challenges, but it’s also creating a lot of real opportunities for players who are just coming through, and it’s making us think about things as coaches and how we can do things differently.

“It’s just a matter of making sure when you’re at training you celebrate it and it’s a real treat to be there together so I think we’re really lucky in the sense that we’ve had everyone available right up until this point.”

With crowds severely restricted under the current Red traffic light setting, Steel’s ticketing revenue would take a significant hit this season.

Southern Steel chief executive Lana Winders said the costs involved in relocating the entire team to other locations had to be a consideration.

“In these challenging times, we are faced with making difficult decisions and this one was made with a lot of angst.

“Ultimately, we have a responsibility to our players, the wider competition and our community. Our team is not the only factor in this equation, we also have to consider opposition teams, ANZ Premiership staff, Sky crews

The Southern Steel beat the Tactix 71-54 on Sunday.