Steel still to fill vacant spot

Southern Steel shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit will join the Southern Steel squad just a week before its opening ANZ Premiership fixture on May 6 as she and fellow Silver Fern Shannon Francois have a two-week stand down following the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Dianne Manson

SOUTHERN Steel coach Reinga Bloxham concedes she has been searching countries she never imagined would ever provide import options in an attempt to fill a vacant spot in the 2018 squad.

Southern Steel’s build up to its ANZ Premiership netball campaign was delivered a blow when Jamaican Malysha Kelly ruptured the ACL in her left knee during a training session last month.

Southern Steel are still on the hunt to fill that defender vacancy as the first game on May 6, against the Northern Mystics, fast approaches.

Bloxham kept a close eye on the recent Commonwealth Games as she tries to pinpoint all the potential options, and it hasn’t just been from the traditional powerhouses.

“Once upon a time it was just New Zealand and Australia you would look at, but with the way other countries have progressed, we are assessing all corners of the world,” Bloxham said.

“Teams like Uganda and Barbados are being looked at. It’s about making sure we get someone that is the right fit for our team.”

It isn’t just the playing abilities Southern Steel need to work through in securing the right replacement. Given they are looking internationally, visa requirements also need to be factored in.

Southern Steel has talented teenage defender Taneisha Fifita as a training partner and Fifita does loom as a potential option to fill the void.

However, given Fifita is just 17 Bloxham would prefer to provide her with more development opportunities rather than regularly thrust Fifita into the bright lights of the ANZ Premiership.

Southern Steel will take another step towards their season opener when they take part in a preseason tournament in Otaki this weekend.

The tournament will involve all six ANZ Premiership teams and Bloxham said it was a good chance to test some different combinations.

Some players – including captain Wendy Frew – will be on restricted duties as they come back from injuries and Southern Steel will also be without Silver Ferns players Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Shannon Francois. The pair will have a two-week break following the Commonwealth Games campaign before joining the Steel just a week out from the competition opener.

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