THERE will be no easing into the new season for the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel’s class of 2022.
The squad assembled at ILT Stadium Southland on Tuesday to officially start preparation for the 2022 ANZ Premiership and were immediately put through their paces with fitness testing and training.
Head coach Reinga Bloxham was suitably impressed from the outset.
“They are all looking great. They’re keen and eager and the excitement level is high which really reinforces we have the right group of players for the task ahead,” she said.
“They know they have to come in fit and be prepared for a hard grind right from the start. There are no easy days – we’re straight into it and hitting the ground running.
“This is such a crucial time in terms of our overall season. Now is when we establish our foundations and they must be strong so we can continue to build up from here.”
While shooter George Fisher remains in the UK on international duties with the England Roses, Bloxham has all other players available, including attackers Saviour Tui and Georgia Heffernan, midcourters Shannon Saunders, Kate Heffernan, Ali Wilshier and Renee Savaiinaea and defenders Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Sarahpheinna Woulf and Kate Burley.
Steel’s trio of training partners – shooter Kiana Pelasio, midcourter Ivari Christie and defender Losa Fifita – working with the squad.
“It’s been great to see all of their faces again and some new faces coming into our environment,” Bloxham said.
“Having new recruits does keep you on your toes and brings an element of surprise and a fresh new energy. We’ve got a strong core group of players and now we’ve added a couple that will change the dynamic and it’s really exciting to see that progress.”
Fisher is expected to join her team-mates at the end of January.
“I know that we’re going to be working really hard but I have no doubt George will be working just as hard on the other side of the world,” Bloxham said.
The Steel kicks off its 2022 campaign against the Trident Homes Tactix on March 13 before two home games against the Northern Mystics in Invercargill on March 21 and the Northern Stars in Dunedin on March 27.
For the first time in the franchise’s 15-year history, a championship game will be staged in Queenstown against the Mystics on April 17.
Other home games include the Tactix on May 1 in Invercargill and the Pulse on May 9 in Dunedin. A double header against the Pulse and Magic on May 21 and 22 respectively is followed by the Stars on May 29.
Steel VIP membership sales start on December 7.