2019 Season Preview: Potgieter adds spark to Steel
Adding prolific South African shooter Lenize Potgieter to a reliable core of proven performers has given Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel a weighty mix of talent heading into the 2019 season.
With regulars of recent seasons, the Selby-Rickit sisters Te Paea and Te Huinga, Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders (nee Francois) returning, coach Reinga Bloxham has made minimal changes to a winning formula as the Steel look to chase a third successive title.
With the short turnaround between seasons, Bloxham was aware consistency would be important, young up-and-coming talent Courtney Elliott, Abby Erwood and Jennifer O’Connell also continuing their presence at the Steel.
The limited gaps in the roster have been shored up by local talent in the form of midcourters Kate Heffernan and Kendall McMinn while the shooting end has been bolstered by the ever-accurate Potgieter.
“Just having that core group of players who know each other when they come in was important,” Bloxham said.
“Lenize has already shown a lot of what she can do and I think there’s more to come. She is very steady and capable of taking in those long, high balls and will add a bit of variety and a bit of speed to that end of the court. She’s quite unique and unorthodox in some of the ways she takes the ball.”
With Potgieter joining Te Paea Selby-Rickit and the promising O’Connell, who made significant strides last season, at the shooting end, the Steel have plenty of options up their sleeve, offering both mobility and a holding style on attack.
A training partner last year, Heffernan grabbed her opportunity late in the season with impressive results, injuries to others helping her on-court progress.
“She is a player to watch,” Bloxham said.
“She’s untapped, quite green in some aspects but is going to be a really exciting player. She’s very tall for a midcourter and very quick as well, has long rangy arms and will add an element of surprise.
“Kendall (McMinn, who has come up from the Beko Netball League) has played a lot of netball in the south, was a Steel training partner a few years ago and is really excited with the opportunity to be able to step up. She’s a hard-nosed Southlander, strong and never backs down and we’re looking forward to seeing what she can do as well.”
Coming into the third season of the ANZ Premiership, Bloxham believes there will be another lift in standards in 2019, an even spread across all teams adding to an evenly-contested and exciting league.
“The franchise coaches are doing everything they can to prepare our international players, and from a personal perspective, we have definitely raised the bar on those expectations that our players will be fitter, faster and stronger as we try and play the game in a more dynamic way,” she said.
“There’s a real even balance across the teams this year, so I think there’s a bit of the unknown coming into the season. They all have the ability and as long as they can get the momentum and those connections going, then any team could take this competition out.”
Gina Crampton, Courtney Elliott, Abby Erwood, Shannon Francois, Kate Heffernan, Kendall McMinn, Jennifer O’Connell, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Lenize Potgieter.