Southern Steel gets ready to fire

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Southern Steel midcourter Shannon Saunders gets ready to pass the ball at training on Tuesday.

As Southern Steel prepare to take to court again in the modified ANZ Premiership competition, Southland Express editor Karen Pasco was courtside to see the team in action at practise this week.

TUESDAY afternoon at ILT Stadium in Invercargill.

A netball team is going through the paces of its usual practise.

It could be any team the Southern Steel and they are training to be ready for when the modified ANZ Premiership resumes on June 19.

As the team begins its warm-up, music is filling the stadium with noise.

Co-captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickett starts off leading the team through a few low-key drills as well as the Netball Smart warm-up.

There’s a balance drill where a player holds the ball, with one foot off the ground, while another player gently taps them 10 times at random (luckily Covid-19 rules do not apply here).

Co-captain Gina Crampton takes over.

Dots are on the ground and slowly the intensity builds.

First the players must hit a dot and receive a pass, then another move is added, then another and another.

It is obvious the players are being trained to ensure concentration is at a maximum – even when the body is starting to hurt and even when tiredness is evident.

Watching the footwork of the young and nimble is like watching them tip-toe run over hot coals; they are fast, agile and can change direction on a whim.

As the intensity of the training rises, the music is turned down.

It’s no coincidence the players are being pushed during the fourth spell of the training session between 45-60 minutes it would now be the crucial time when players let fatigue and concentration lapse and stamina starts to wane. Now during a game, is when the opposition can come at you and take the win from your grasp.

The last bit of training sees groups start in a row spread along the baseline. Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham, who has now taken over, is calling out numbers of who should receive the next pass is as they move through the line their number changes. One becomes three, two becomes one and so they weave in and out of the line trying to remember which number they have become while still looking to catch the ball, seeing where the other players are and listening to the next cue.

Then, opposition is introduced, numbers are still called, this time directing players to which channel on the court the ball is to be received.

It’s like a sort-of game. Except Bloxham is dictating where she wants the ball to go. Often it is to where there is a glug of opposition players.

After about an hour and 15 minutes of court time, players then walk to cool down.

They gather in a circle and suck on the straws of flavoured milk.

There is only a couple of hours, enough to rest and eat, and they will be back for another one-and-a-half hours take the court for real in a few weeks.

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